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New Zealand Marks Commitment To End Cervical Cancer

Wellington, 17 November 2021 – Worldwide we can eliminate a cancer, words that many would have never thought possible. Today, New Zealand marks its commitment to end cervical cancer.

On 17 November last year, the WHO launched the Global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer, with a resolution passed by 194 countries, including New Zealand. Achieving the targets set in this strategy will prevent the deaths of an estimated 5 million women by 2050.

New Zealand will be the first country to mark the first anniversary of this historic movement by illuminating some monuments around the country in the colour teal tonight: Eden Park (Auckland), Kate Sheppard statue (Wellington), Wellington Cable Car, Carter Fountain (Oriental Parade Wellington), Christchurch Airport and Otago Museum (Dunedin).

Approximately 190 New Zealanders per year are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 60 people die from it.

The Ministry of Health and the Cancer Society of New Zealand support the WHO’s global goal of eliminating cervical cancer by 2030 in Aotearoa with ambitious targets for HPV vaccination, HPV screening, and treatment. HPV vaccination rates in New Zealand are currently around 66%, missing both the WHO target of 90% and the 75% coverage needed for herd immunity.

Jane O’Hallahan, Clinical Director of the Ministry of Health’s National Screening Unit, says almost all cases are preventable though HPV vaccination and cervical screening. “Regular cervical screening allows any changes on the cervix to be detected early before they become cancers. This is available every three years to those with a cervix aged 25-69 years.

“Alongside this, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against the strains of the HPV virus, which can lead to cervical cancer and some other cancers, such as mouth, throat, and anal cancer. We are very fortunate that the HPV vaccination is free in New Zealand for those between 9 and 26 years inclusive and can be accessed through school immunisation programmes, general practice or some local health centres and family planning clinics,” says Dr O’Hallahan.

Cancer Society Chief Executive Lucy Elwood adds: “We were pleased to see that the Government announced on Budget Day it will replace the current cervical test with HPV primary screening tests from July 2023. The new test will be more comfortable, effective and will be needed less often. The change of test will also allow the option of self-testing, which will support better access to screening. In the meantime, it’s really important that people continue to have the usual screening test when they are due.”

“We fully support New Zealand’s commitment to the WHO’s initiative and, incredibly, the end of cervical cancer is within our reach.”

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