In a striking push for health equity, the World Health Assembly adopted a strategy in 2020 for the global elimination of cervical cancer. The WHO has identified cervical cancer as the fourth-most common cancer among women globally, with an estimated 604,000 new cases and 342,000 deaths in 2020. Of these new cases, about 90% occurred in low and middle-income countries. These numbers shed light on the glaring global disparity in early screening; the most effective tool in identifying cervical abnormalities before they can develop into cancer.
Pap testing has long been the cornerstone of cervical cancer prevention, but it is important to acknowledge the barriers to access that often come with this type of screening. Specifically, the laboratory infrastructure and expert personnel needed to examine and interpret Pap samples makes this type of testing nearly impossible in remote regions with little access to resources. With a disease that is largely preventable and curable with early detection, unfortunately, many women pay a heavy price for the lack of simple, available testing.
This gap in screening access led me to diligently and tirelessly work to bring accessible screening to women in these regions, particularly in my home country of India. One of the challenges faced by Pap screening methods, or HPV detection methods, is the turnaround time needed to get a result. Returning to a healthcare facility to collect test results is not a priority for most women, particularly when they have other pressing responsibilities, like earning their daily wage or looking after their family. Unfortunately, this is more common when women don’t display symptoms. Hence, an ideal test would be one that’s simple to use and does not require sophisticated resources. It should also offer a quick procedure, provide consistent and immediate results, and help to triage cases. Through our research studies in India, we observed that VIA testing, using CerVIA Test Kit, effectively fulfilled these criteria during non-pandemic and pandemic clinical services.
VIA testing is unique in its simplicity; a dilution of white vinegar is applied to the cervix while a health care provider performs a visual assessment for abnormalities. Results from VIA testing are given to the patient immediately after the exam. Unlike traditional Pap testing, patients aren’t required to return for a follow-up. This is an important option in remote regions where expensive medical equipment and specialized staffing are not currently available. It also lowers the barrier to access, giving women effective and potentially life-saving alternatives.
CerVIA, a self-contained VIA test kit that simplifies the procedure and provides accessible early detection capabilities, was designed with the understanding that testing needs to be prioritized alongside women’s health education to give women power over their health outcomes. This type of testing is uniquely positioned to close the testing gap, providing more women with greater access to screening and related health programs.