A team of scientists from the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), University of Ghana, in collaboration with the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Centre (CCPTC) at the Catholic Hospital, Battor, Volta Region and the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NACP), are leading operational research to ascertain how cervical cancer screening could be integrated into routine care for women living with HIV in Ghana. Cervical cancer (CC) is a leading cause of cancer among women in Africa; killing an estimated 350,000 women worldwide in 2020, of which 90% were in Africa. In Ghana, the WHO estimates incidence of cervical cancer to be 29/100,000, 4 times that of the USA and mortality of 28/100,000, about 10 times that of the USA. Women living with HIV (WLWH) are 6 times more likely to develop cervical cancer. In the developed world, these women are screened regularly for cervical cancer. Unfortunately, in most African countries, including Ghana, regular screening is not performed as part of HIV care. Given that HIV affects women 2:1 in Ghana, it speaks of great gender inequity in care. This study will determine the barriers to integrating cervical cancer screening into routine care for WLWH. It will also pilot task shifting for CC screening by training nurses to perform screening using HPV PCR testing, visual inspection using mobile colposcopy and treatment of early lesions using portable thermal ablation. Overall, the study will benefit over 2000 women living with HIV in Ghana.
The three-year project with an estimated budget of Euro 1,449,968, is funded by Expertise France Groupe AFD, with 10% co-funding from NMIMR. The Principal Investigator of this project is Prof. George Boateng Kyei, an Associate Professor at the Virology Department, NMIMR, and Director of Research at the University of Ghana Medical Centre. Dr. Kyei is an Infectious Diseases Consultant Physician and an expert in HIV research and clinical care. The study is co-led by Dr. Evelyn Yayra Bonney, a Senior Research Fellow at the Virology Department, NMIMR, who has extensive experience with HIV research and Prof. Collins Ahorlu, an Associate Professor and Head of the Epidemiology Department, who is a specialist in implementation science research. Other investigators from NMIMR are Prof. Kwadwo Ansah Koram and Dr. Mary Amoakoh-Coleman who are both experts in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Dr. Stephen Ayisi Addo, the program manager of NACP, will lead the study from their side, while Dr. Kofi Effah, a gynecologist and head of the CCPTC will serve as consultant for the project.