Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Papanicolaou Testing Days

The Strengthening Families team have partnered with Centro de Investigación, Educación y Servicios (CIES), a charity which focuses on sexual and reproductive health, to hold cervical cancer testing days at two of the children’s centres we work at.

After researching and finding out that the cervical cancer mortality rates in Bolivia are amongst the highest in the world, where every day, two women die from cervical cancer (MSD’s National Plan Against Cervical Cancer) this seemed an extremely vital part of our project.
In Bolivia, where the burden of cervical cancer is high as the expensive cost of screening has proved to be a barrier to care for women, meaning many women with the disease reach out to health services only after the disease has progressed to an untreatable or advanced stage. This means that every year, a high proportion of women are being diagnosed and are dying from cervical cancer but there is a lack of women being tested for the disease.

Our plan was to raise awareness of sexual reproductive health to the parents at the centres and also hold cervical cancer test days offering smear tests at a discounted cost.

Deysi Flores giving a presentation on cervical cancer

Prior to the test day, a meeting was held with Deysi Flores (CIES) on staff availability, the cost of the test and logistics for the test days. From this meeting we had organised for an ambulance to drop off the bed, equipment and to have two doctors at the centres. It was then revealed that the cervical cancer test would cost 25 Bolivianos per person, which equates to approximately £2.50.

Working at the children’s centres has given us the opportunity to reach out to a significant number of women and enabled us to arrange a parents evening at the centres to help raise awareness about cervical cancer and emphasise the importance of its early detection. We also designed leaflets which provided a step-by-step guide of what to expect when taking the test and another on contraceptive methods which were given to the parents, along with a condom each. The parents evening was a success in raising both awareness about cervical cancer as well as informing people of the upcoming event – the testing day.

Strengthening Families giving a presentation on sexual reproductive health awareness

The first cervical cancer day was held at Escobar Uria. All 25 women who had signed up for the test arrived which was a great success. However at the second test day, which was held at Rosasani, only 15 of the 22 mothers turned up. The mothers who were unable to attend can still get their discounted tests at the CIES clinic in the centre of La Paz at a time that may better suit them.

At both centres, we had organised activities such as bobbing for apples, pass the parcel and races to keep the children entertained whilst their mothers were taking the test. We also brought in a projector and showed children’s films.

Mothers making hand-prints after taking the smear tests

Holding the cervical cancer tests at the children’s centres, as opposed to at the main CIES clinic in central La Paz as had been done before, was successful as the community are very much involved in the centres making it a well known and trusted location, as well as being close to their homes which made the experience very convenient.

It was a pleasure working with CIES who are an inspiring organisation working across Bolivia protecting sexual and reproductive rights for all.

Written by: Roxy Sayer
Edited by: Liam Hilton

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