Gynaecology specialist in the Ministry of Health and Social Services Dr. Shonag Mackenzie says Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon has promised to build 14 gynaecology clinics nationwide in a bid to instantly attend to women with cancer or pre-cancer.
Speaking to reporters recently, Mackenzie along with former U.S President George W. Bush and his wife Laura made a “commitment” to build 14 more gynaecology clinics in Namibia during the recent visit to Namibia.
“The visit (by Bush) today was about setting up 14 other clinics around the country and we have trained nurses and doctors who are going to treat them, so they (patients) don’t have to come to Windhoek,” said Mackenzie.
When asked how long it would take until the 14 clinics are completely set up and operating, Mackenzie said: “I can’t answer that at the moment, but the meeting today was commitment by Global Fund to provide that.
“We set this one up (at Windhoek Central Hospital) in two months and they were agreeing with the Minister of Health (Bernard Haufiku) and President Bush and his team are committed to providing the service,” she said.
Moreover, Mackenzie reiterated that cervical cancer was one of the most prevalent cancers in Namibia and affects a lot of women mainly because it is not detected at an early age due to the absence of the right health facilities.
“Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in Namibia and affects a lot of women but it is a completely preventable cancer if you have HPV vaccination while young.
“This is one of the few cancers that you can prevent, but at the moment it is being discovered late in our women because they don’t have the access to services,” lamented Mackenzie.
Moreover, during his two-day visit to Namibia last week, President Bush also encouraged Namibian women to go for early screening for cervical and breast cancer which are the most prevalent type of cancers in the country and lauded the noteworthy drop in mother-to-baby transmission of HIV.
When asked why cervical cancer was common among women infected with the HIV, Mackenzie’s response was: “Cervical cancer is caused by a virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that is around people when having sex so it’s a very common virus. And when you have HIV, you are more prone to infections even if you are on treatment.
“The thing is that with HPV, there is a vaccine for it but it is not available at the State at the moment but it is something that what the ministry is committing to,” Mackenzie explained.
According to Mackenzie, the Health ministry will “embark” on a countrywide HPV vaccination program later this year in order to protect young girls from serious cancers in the latter stages of their lives.
Studies have shown that HPV vaccination reduces the chances of contracting cervical cancer by close to 70%, anal cancer by 80% and vaginal cancer by 80%.
Moreover, doctors recommend that all girls and boys aged 11 and 12 get the HPV vaccine or even as early as the age of nine.
As part of the donations by Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, the Gynaecology Rapid Access Service Clinic at Windhoek Central Hospital is equipped with modern-day technology that makes provision for remote “diagnosis”.
“We’ve got some technology provided by I-Tech so that we can make remote diagnosis so if one medical officers is maybe stuck in Rundu, they can send us a photo and discuss the best treatment live,” narrated Mackenzie.
Speaking to reporters shortly after visiting the Windhoek Gynaecology Rapid Access Facility recently, Bush said he was “impressed” by the state of the facility.
The new clinic facility is fully ventilated and encompasses a brand new bed, colposcopy, laptop computer, generator and smoke extractor.
Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is an independent affiliate of the George W. Bush Institute which leads coordinated efforts to save women and young girls from cervical cancer in selected countries. The countries comprise of Peru, Namibia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia.