a civil society alliance for combatting chronic disease in the caribbean

Healthy Caribbean Coalition - UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD) panel discussion to highlight non-communicable diseases specifically breast and cervical cancer.

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On 13 April, during the 44th Session of the UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD), the Permanent Missions of the CARICOM countries and of the Republic of Malawi collaborated with PAHO to co-sponsor a panel discussion to highlight non-communicable diseases, specifically breast and cervical cancer. The event was also co-sponsored by UNFPA, the American Cancer Society, and PATH.

This side event, attended by over 200 representatives from Member States, UN agencies, and a wide range of civil society organizations, contributed to the thematic discussions of the CPD session, Fertility, Reproductive Health and Development. At the same time, it aimed to build momentum for the High Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs to be held at the UN in September this year.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Karen Sealey, PAHO/ WHO Special Adviser and the panelists included:
- H.E.. Madame Callista Mutharika, the First Lady of Malawi and incoming Vice Chairperson for the Forum of African First Ladies on Breast and Cervical Cancer;
- Ms Purnima Mane, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA Purnima Mane;
- Mr. Scott Wittet, Lead Advocacy & Communication for Cervical Cancer Prevention Programs at PATH; and
- Ms Clover Allen Wilson, breast cancer survivor from Jamaica

Both Permanent Representatives of the Bahamas, Chair of the CARICOM Group, and of Malawi, in their opening and closing remarks respectively, noted the development burden of NCDs in their countries. They highlighted that cancers were among the 4 diseases to be focused on at the HLM and called on participants to support the HLM and to advocate for specificity in the outcome document including the highlighting of women's cancers as a major area. Requiring a global response.

In her review of the global situation of cancers of the breast and cervix, Ms Mane,UNFPA, noted that a disproportionate number of cases and deaths due to these cancers occurred in the developing world. The good news was that cost effective interventions now existed for low resource settings. She called on Member States to see resources for these programs as investment in women.

The First Lady of Malawi painted a grim picture for the situation in Africa, not only in terms of the statistics but in terms of the challenges of the cultural realities around these issues. She also explained the mission of the Forum of First Ladies of Africa against Cancers of the Breast and Cervix, discussed strategies that the Forum will use to confront these diseases in their region and launched an advocacy package for the Forum.

Ms Àllen Wilson brought a human face to the issues as she shared intimate details of the 5 year struggle that she has had, and is going through, (she is in the middle of her chemotherapy) with her breast cancer. She was passionate and received a standing ovation.

Scott Wittet launched the Cervical Cancer Action Report on the Progress in Cervical Cancer Prevention, and in his presentation highlighted the significant reduction in the price of the HPV vaccine; that there were now many more reliable methods for screening of cancer of the cervix than the Pap smear and emphasized that numerous approaches to treatment could be carried out at the primary care level. ‬

Many participants in their comments made reference to personal experiences with these cancers NCDs within their communities and families, called for improving the required laboratory services in the countries and for universal access to the HPV vaccines in all countries, developed and developing. The elevated risk of cervical cancer in those infected with HIV was also noted.

The US delegation reiterated its support for the HLM and highlighted its national inter-agency efforts to address NCDs and in preparation for the HLM.

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