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Pacific: Cervical Screening campaign launches Mission 1000

The first of potentially 1000 Pacific women have signed up to try the new HPV self-test. The Pacific Cervical Screening recruitment drive, Mission 1000, aims to raise awareness about the easier way to screen for cervical cancer that was launched nationally this month.

The new vaginal swab test looks for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which causes more than 95 percent of cervical cancers. People can choose to do the test themselves, in privacy, in a health clinic, or have a trained healthcare professional assist them. The cervical sample test, previously called a smear, is still available as an option and maybe recommended for some. The difference is that, however a sample is taken, it will first be tested for HPV.

Figures released by the National Screening Unit in June this year show that cervical screening rates for Pacific people are nearly 12 percent lower than mainstream groups. They are more likely to get cervical cancer and twice as likely to die from it, compared to their European counterparts. HPV screening, with the option to self-test, is expected to increase Pacific screening rates and significantly reduce deaths from cervical cancer.

Harriet Pauga, Regional Director Pacific Health: Northern region at Te Whatu Ora, says the new test will save lives.

“We know that Pacific people face inequities and cost barriers in accessing cervical screening services. To reduce those barriers, cervical screening is now free for Pacific people and other under-screened groups.

“Coupled with the new and less invasive HPV self-test, and a screening campaign that was designed specifically for Pacific people, we are confident that screening rates will improve and ultimately save lives.”

The campaign was co-designed by Te Whatu Ora in consultation with the newly established NCSP Pacific Campaign Advisory Group, made up of Pacific healthcare professionals and advisors. Group Chair Dr Tua Lealaiauloto Taueetia-Sua says the new HPV self-test provides more screening choices.

“It was essential to design a culturally aligned campaign that Pacific people could see themselves in. It’s about celebrating choices and empowering people to make those choices. We hope that the new test, the Talanoa Choices booklet, and Mission 1000 will encourage our people to get screened – it could save their life.”

Support to Screen provider Epifania Leo’o says she’s excited to launch Mission 1000 at the You First Pacific Women’s Wellness event in Wellington this Saturday – a day to celebrate women, wellness, and the offer of free health-checks and services, such as a manicure, so women can pamper themselves.

“Our women are so busy looking after everyone else that many don’t take time to look after themselves. This campaign gives them a moment to rest, learn about their choices, and let our trained healthcare workers take care of them.

“Pacific people have some of the lowest cervical screening rates in the country, but this test can change that. It is so important to get screened, and the HPV self-test makes it quicker and easier.”

The official launch of the Pacific Cervical Screening campaign will take place at the You First event during Cervical Screening Awareness month on Saturday, 23 September at the PIPC Newton Church Hall, 53-55 Daniell Street, Newtown, from 9am to 3pm.

While cervical screening, along with HPV vaccination, has greatly reduced cervical cancer in New Zealand, around 180 people develop the disease every year and 60 die from it. About 85% of those diagnosed with cervical cancer have either never been screened or have not had regular screening.

More about the new approach to Cervical Screening and HPV testing can be found here.


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