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Immunizing Girls Against Cervical Cancer

From VOA Learning English, welcome to the Health Report in Special English. The GAVI Alliance is a partnership between public health officials and private industry. The group provides vaccines to developing countries.

Recently, the alliance announced plans for an immunization campaign to protect 180,000 girls from cervical cancer. It has chosen eight countries to start administering the vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV. Most cervical cancers result from HPV. The virus is passed through sex.

Seth Berkley is chief executive officer of the GAVI Alliance. He says one woman dies every two minutes from cervical cancer. That is more women than die in childbirth. Dr. Berkley says an estimated 275,000 women die from this cancer each year. And 85 percent of the victims are in the developing world. He warns that, without intervention, the estimate would reach 430,000 deaths a year by 2030.

The HPV vaccine is given to girls between the ages of nine and 13. It is only effective before someone is infected with the virus. If infection does take place, the virus may cause extremely small changes at the cellular level. A Pap smear test or Pap test can find those changes. But the test may not be available to women in developing countries. If the infection is not found, the cancer begins to grow and will spread.

There are signs like bleeding. And after the cancer spreads, there is pain.The HPV vaccine will be administered as part of school programs in Laos and seven African countries. The seven are Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. Dr. Berkley notes that efforts must be made to reach girls who are not in school.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 06Feb2013)