Costly life-saving drugs and vaccines still out of reach for far too many in the developing world

Captions: HPV 1: In 2014 SA launched the 2014 HPV  vaccination campaign to vaccinate girls in Grade 4.

Enriching collaborative efforts to eradicate diseases such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) was needed to save lives, Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, said at the opening of the 31st International Papillomavirus Conference, currently under way in Cape Town.

HPV is the single most important cause of a number of fatal cancers, particularly cervical cancer.  It is one of the biggest health problems among South African women, killing approximately eight of them every day.

Cervical cancer is a preventable disease, but the World Health Organisation predicts that deaths per day will increase to about 12 by 2025 if cervical cancer prevention programmes are not improved.

While there was no anti-HPV medication yet, the Minister said South Africa was at "the cusp of an enormously exciting time. We now have at least two commercially available and highly efficacious vaccines."

South Africa has joined countries like Australia and Argentina in making the vaccine available publicly. In 2014 the Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi, championed a campaign to vaccinate girls in grade 4. The HPV vaccination campaign is part of the Integrated School Health Programme driven by the Departments of Health and Basic Education.

South Africa is the first African country to fund the national vaccination campaign using only government money. Countries like Kenya and Rwanda offer similar programmes with the assistance of pharmaceutical sponsors and international aid organisations.

Although much progress has been made in tackling diseases like HPV, and conditions such as asthma, diabetes, ulcers and mental illness, many people in developing countries continue to lose their lives owing to the lack of access to medicines.

Reducing the cost of drugs and vaccines in Africa would help bring down the burden of death on the continent.

"We need to reduce the cost of drugs and vaccines by manufacturing them here in Africa, rather than importing them from India and other countries," said Minister Pandor.

In an endeavour to improve access to treatment and strengthen health innovation, South Africa was forging a number of international partnerships.

One of these is the Strategic Health Innovation Partnership, which facilitates collaborative research dedicated to addressing the burden of HIV, Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and non-communicable diseases, and helps to secure international research and financial partnerships to drive research and development efforts.

"These partnerships reflect a changing world. Our problems are also our neighbours' problems. HIV and Aids, malaria and tuberculosis are on the rise in regions previously considered to be safe, while non-communicable diseases, including lifestyle diseases, now have a devastating impact in the developing world," said the Minister.

The Minister added that the growing role of multinational companies made new and innovative models for public-private partnerships necessary.

The conference, with its stimulating array of lectures, oral abstract sessions, poster sessions, symposia, workshops and social events aimed at sharing knowledge and ideas on papillomaviruses and associated diseases, will end tomorrow, 4 March.


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