EGPAF-Supported Facilities Fight Cervical Cancer in Lesotho

A nurse checking-in a patient at the Senkatana Centre.

Heather Mason/EGPAF

After months of suffering from painful cramps, Mpho, a 29-year-old mother living in Lesotho, finally received a diagnosis. She had a precancerous lesion on her cervix, putting her at great risk for cervical cancer, a painful and often deadly disease. But Mpho was fortunate; she was able to have the lesion removed via a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) at the country’s Senkatana Centre of Excellence. Today, she’s back for her one-month follow-up.

Lesotho’s National Cervical Cancer Prevention Program at the Senkatana Centre of Excellence, pioneered by the Elizabeth Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Lesotho’s Ministry of Health, uses simple, innovative methods to identify cervical cancer in its earliest stages and cure the disease before it can progress. These methods, which include visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) and LEEPs, are giving countless women the chance to receive quick, safe, effective treatment, eliminating their risk of developing cervical cancer.

This center, providing easy and effective diagnostics and treatment of cervical cancer, is a welcome innovation to those in the fight to eliminate HIV. According to Oluwasanmi Akintade, M.D., director of reproductive health for EGPAF in Lesotho, an HIV-positive woman who contracts HPV is four to five times more likely than an HIV-negative woman to develop invasive cervical cancer. This deadly combination explains why cervical cancer is the largest cause of cancer deaths among women in Lesotho.

The program is expanding to the rest of Lesotho in the coming years. EGPAF has already developed guidelines and trained 66 health workers on cervical screening throughout the country, and supported the MOH to recruit cytology and pathology staff. Currently, patients outside Maseru who screen positive for precancerous lesions are referred to Senkatana for treatment. Plans are in place to establish treatment programs in each district by the end of 2015.

Thanks to the National Cervical Cancer Prevention Program, women like Mpho have a new chance at life. “I want to thank [the Senkatana staff] with all my heart,” Mpho says. “They are good people.”

EGPAF’s support of the Senkatana treatment center is funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

For more information about Senkatana and to read more about the lived affected and saved by this facility, read the Life Story segment on the center.

To watch a video about Senkatana, click here.

To read more about EGPAF-Lesotho’s program, click here.

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