Improve HIV and Cancer management

Zimbabwe faces obstacles in addressing the problem of cancer in its population. Many present with advanced stages of cancer due to a lack of education, delayed diagnosis, and limited access to affordable treatment. Especially affected are people suffering from chronic illnesses such as HIV as it enhances the development of cancer. Our Clinical Director, Dr. Margie Pascoe believes, that Newlands Clinic plays a vital role in closing the care gap for people suffering from HIV and cancer.

In Zimbabwe, many people develop cancers on the background of chronic diseases such as HIV, and HIV-associated cancers are major causes of morbidity and mortality in both men and women living with HIV. Many Zimbabweans do not have access to health care services and are therefore unable to have screening, diagnosis, and life-saving treatment for early-stage cancers.

HIV and cancer require close attention
Newlands Clinic plays an important role in the provision of screening, diagnosis, and management of cancer in people living with HIV. An example of this is the cervical cancer screening programme which began 12 years. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer and cause of cancer deaths in Zimbabwe. Women living with HIV are six times more likely to develop cervical cancer than their HIV-negative counterparts. Newlands Clinic executes a rigorous screening programme to identify women with an increased risk for gynaecological cancers by screening for high-risk Human papillomavirus (hr-HPV). The virus causes over 90% of cervical cancers. Women who have a positive test then have a clinical examination where cervical disease can be detected, and pre-cancerous disease can be identified before it becomes invasive cancer.

Partnering to close the care gap
Newlands Clinic is also partnering with both private oncologists and government institutions to provide life-saving treatment and chemotherapy for people with other HIV-associated cancers. Doctors from government hospitals refer patients to Newlands Clinic for the care of both the HIV disease and the provision of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is sourced from local suppliers, and this is often a challenge and requires special permission from the medicines control authority to allow the importation of the medicines on compassionate grounds. The pharmacist at Newlands Clinic actively engages these authority structures to ensure that the medicines are procured.

Support groups help to cope
Several years ago, a cancer support group was formed, with the purpose being that women living with the dual burdens of HIV and cancer could come together and discuss the challenges they face, and the stigma attached to both diseases, and encourage one another in the face of oftentimes, difficult treatment.

I believe that Newlands Clinic is playing an important role in assisting Zimbabwe to fulfill the call to action on today’s world Cancer Day: “Close the Care Gap - uniting our voices and taking action”.