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Urgent Action Required On Cervical Cancer Self-swabbing

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Toi Mata Hauora supports the call for the Ministry of Health to quit stalling the rollout of a life-saving and low-cost measure that will save the lives of many women and improve health equity.

Self-swabbing for cervical cancer was supposed to start in 2018 but has been put on the backburner by the Ministry.

Te Tātai Hauora o Hine director Dr Beverley Lawton, who conducted a pilot study of the proposed HPV self-screening, told RNZ that she was “totally baffled” by the delay.

Self-swabbing has been introduced in the UK and Australia. Not only does it reach more women through accessibility and privacy, but the test itself is better at detecting abnormalities.

“We too are baffled by the Ministry’s failure to introduce self-swabbing, and its excuse about updating the IT system are simply lame when it’s had years to make the necessary changes,” says ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton.

“We saw how quickly the government enacted changes to deal with the Covid pandemic, and how quickly the health system could adapt. There needs to be urgency for other aspects of health care, not least women’s health.”

Ms Dalton is urging the Ministry not to wait for the anticipated health reforms to enact this measure. While the health and disability system reforms are likely to see increased investment in IT systems, there will be a long lead-in time.

“Women are sick and tired of waiting for their health needs to be prioritised.”

“We know that some communities are not being reached by the screening programme. It’s time for the Ministry to walk its health equity talk and invest in women’s health. Here would be a good place to start”.

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