National Partnership for Women & Families

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George W. Bush Launches Initiative To Combat Breast, Cervical Cancers in Developing World

George W. Bush Launches Initiative To Combat Breast, Cervical Cancers in Developing World

September 12, 2011 — President George W. Bush is forming a public-private partnership among his George W. Bush Institute, the State Department, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS to use the infrastructure of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to provide cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment, the Wall Street Journal reports.

With an initial investment of $75 million, the project's goal is to reduce the number of cervical cancer deaths by 25% in five years in the countries where it will work to increase education, screening and treatment. PEPFAR's primary goal is to control HIV/AIDS, but health officials and advocates think it could be a cost-efficient way to target other diseases. They say it makes little sense to provide people with HIV/AIDS drugs only to have them die of cancer. The Obama administration also has embraced a strategy of investing more in lowering maternal mortality and combating preventable diseases.

Next week, the U.N. is meeting to discuss strategies to address noncommunicable diseases, including cancer, which account for more deaths internationally than infectious diseases. These conditions are a growing burden on developing countries, the Journal reports. Cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer in women globally, and more than 85% of cases occur in developing countries, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. "Too many women are needlessly dying," Bush said, adding, "We think we can make a measurable difference."

Eric Goosby, the Obama administration's global AIDS coordinator, said PEPFAR in 2005 launched clinics to screen and treat women for cervical cancer, with services now offered at about 250 sites in 11 countries. Under the new partnership, the U.S. will contribute an additional $10 million over five years, on top of a current $4 million annual contribution, to the cervical cancer program.

The partnership also hopes to train PEPFAR health workers to raise breast cancer awareness and teach women to perform breast self exams. Mammograms and breast cancer treatment are not widely available in the targeted countries and will take longer to establish.

The Bush initiative comes as HIV/AIDS programs face increasingly strained budgets, the Journal reports. In 2010, global funding to fight HIV/AIDS fell for the first time since the U.S. and other major donors began making contributions a decade ago, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation and UNAIDS. U.S. spending on global HIV/AIDS efforts in fiscal year 2011 is about $28 million lower than what it was in FY 2010 (McKay, Wall Street Journal, 9/12).