Eswatini Daily News

By Phephile Motau

The Ministry of Health will start the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine campaign on June 1.

HPV is a group of viruses that can be transmitted through sexual contact and has infected nine out of 10 sexually active people. The virus is transmitted from one person to the other through tiny invisible breaks in the skin.

The types of HPV that cause genital cancers and warts are passed on by genital-skin-to-genital-skin contact and the best method of prevention is abstinence.

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The campaign is aimed at a population of 79 000 girls aged between 9 and 14 years and will be administered at schools with the consent of parents.

The campaign is part of a program sponsored by the World Bank. A media sensitisation meeting was held on Tuesday and this was when the start date of the campaign was revealed.

According to Dr Teluleko Dlamini, the HPV vaccine can prevent girls and boys from 90 per cent of cervical cancers, most genital HPV-related cancers in males, and 90 per cent of genital warts.

He explained that when the vaccine is given, the body is stimulated to produce antibodies that, in future encounters with HPV, bind to the virus and prevent it from infecting cells. If a person is then exposed to the real virus, the antibodies can clear it from the body, and it is called immunity.

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Dr Dlamini further said vaccination can also reduce the prevalence of the vaccine-targeted HPV types in the population, thereby reducing infection in individuals who are not vaccinated (a phenomenon called herd protection, or herd immunity).

The vaccines are already in the country and the campaign will last for seven days, with an additional three days for a mop-up exercise. The girls will be given two doses in six months.

The Program Control Manager for the Cancer Control Program Xolisile Dlamini encouraged emaSwati to take part in this campaign as it was an intervention that would prevent future cases of cancer in the country as currently, Eswatini is one of the leading countries in terms of cervical cancer, which is caused by HPV.

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