LOCAL governments launched a nationwide fight against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer elimination by strengthening the awareness and immunization campaign in their own municipalities.
One of these local government units is the San Jose municipality in Batangas, which has been working with the Department of Education (DepEd) Region IV in implementing the Department of Health’s (DoH) nationwide School-Based Immunization Program (SBIP).
An HPV awareness and vaccination drive was recently held at the Pedro Imo Luna Memorial Elementary School (PILMES), where parents and officials from 17 public schools gathered together with parent-teacher association heads to discuss key information on HPV and its link to cervical cancer and other illnesses associated with infection.
Dr. Erwin de Mesa, president of the Philippine Infectious Diseases Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology (PIDSOG), discussed the burden of HPV in the country.
HPV causes 99 percent of cervical cancer cases. This vaccine-preventable disease is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Filipinas.
More than 6,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year.
In his presentation, Dr. de Mesa emphasized the benefits of availing the free quadrivalent HPV vaccine administered by the DoH, which is recommended for girls aged 9-13 years old, before they become exposed to the virus.
HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, can also lead to genital warts and anal cancer in men and women, vulvar and vaginal cancer in women, and penile cancer in men. As protection against cervical cancer, recipients are required to get two doses, given at least six months apart, for a cost-effective and long-term protection against the fatal disease.
He also talked about a growing confidence in vaccination, with more people now becoming aware of the importance of regular screenings such as Pap smears or Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) to further ensure early prevention and treatment of possible health complications for women.
The government’s HPV vaccination program has long been targeted to make protection against HPV related diseases such as cervical cancer more accessible to Filipino women, especially for those who can’t afford the costs of immunization.