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MOHW Announces HPV Testing Available at All Public Health Facilities in Belize – Love FM Belize News & Music Power

The Department of Health and Wellness says it has taken a crucial step in the fight against cervical cancer. Today, human papillomavirus testing is now available at all government health facilities in Belize. The HPV test can help in the early detection of persistent HPV infection in women, which can progress to cervical cancer if left untreated. Gynecologist and obstetrician, doctor Marcelo Coyi spoke about the meaning.

Marcelo Coyi, obstetrician and gynecologist: “We know that human papillomavirus 16, 18, 6 and 11 is the infectious agent that you would say is a virus that can potentially cause changes in the cervix and those changes, if not controlled, can lead to cervical cancer later and it takes a period of 5 to 10 years for this transformation to take place. Classically what we’ve done in Belize is take a pap smear and what a pap smear does is it picks up the cellular changes caused by HPV. Now the HPV test is a refinement now than rather to wait for changes what the HPV test does is we identify if that agent is present and if it is present we identify if it is the types of high-risk subtypes and if a woman is positive for one of the high-risk subtypes, we will investigate further with a pap smear or what is called an acid test acetic acid or with a colposcopy and then we can put these HIV-positive women at low risk, which basically means that they have HPV but are at low risk of developing cancer or we can put them at higher risk and then we can put them handle appropriately. But it is a refinement of the HPV test. I think the other good thing about it is that this test allows a person to do it themselves, unlike a Pap test which requires a health care provider, nurse, or doctor to do it. So I think other than that it will help to adopt a test that can identify you as high risk by someone who can test themselves. It requires specialized equipment to read it and I think the ministry, I don’t think – I know the ministry now has the technology to identify high-risk human papillomaviruses at the central lab and soon to be extended. I am told by the ministry to all districts and that is fine. It’s good news. I think that’s an improvement and hopefully that would lead to more people getting tested which would mean more people would be detected if they’re high risk and if they’re high risk we can get them assess to see if many of them have the precursors of cancer and obviously if you treat the precursors, at some point you should have what the goal is which is the elimination of cervical cancer.

Women between the ages of 25 and 65 are the target population for the HPV test, in particular women who have never been screened for cervical cancer and those whose last screening dates back more than three years. According to the technical adviser in maternal and child health of the ministry, doctor Natalia Largaespada-Beer, it is an additional weapon in the arsenal of the ministry in the fight against cancer of the cervix.

Dr Natalia Beer, Technical Advisor for Maternal and Child Health, Ministry of Health and Welfare: “This is another of the public health interventions of the Ministry of Health and private sector colleagues improving women’s health. I think someone asked earlier why are we introducing it now and not before, it has a cost and Dr Coyi made it clear that the cost is to the government and not necessarily direct payment to women and many countries don’t have access to HPV testing yet, but the idea, the goal is for us to find these high-risk HPV viruses in these women and then get them the care they need.

The test results will be made available to the patient no later than one week after administration.

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