Tackling Cervical Cancer During Women’s History Month

March 21, 2024 By Elizabeth Onibokun

Women’s History Month serves as a time to both celebrate women’s achievements and raise awareness for issues that disproportionately affect women around the globe – like access to education, jobs, and crucially, healthcare. For instance, despite representing half of the world’s population, women’s health is understudied, underrepresented, and underfunded, leading to a global health gap, where women spend 25% more of their lives in poor health despite living longer lives on average. One contributing factor is gender bias in the medical field, with men’s physiology being treated as the default for research and treatment, while women experience misdiagnoses, delays in care, and ill-suited treatment.

This is a significant opportunity for the development community to increase opportunity and stability. Closing the global health gap would give nearly 4 billion women around the world an extra seven healthy days a year, or an average of 500 days over a lifetime. And according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the McKinsey Health Institute (MHI), closing the global health gap could boost the global economy by at least $1 trillion annually by 2040. Women’s economic participation has always been a major driver of economic growth and development. Investing in women’s health not only improves women’s lives, it also leads to a happier, healthier, expanded workforce. For every $1 invested in women’s health, around $3 is projected for economic growth.

One area where this need to close the gender gap is most glaring is cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women globally, with the highest rates of mortality in low- and middle-income countries due to lack of access to HPV vaccinations, cervical screening and treatment services. But when detected early and managed effectively, cervical cancer is extremely treatable. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), and the good news is that innovations such as the HPV vaccine and consistent screening make prevention highly attainable. In 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) outlined a global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer. In the plan, WHO identifies 90–70–90 targets that must be met by 2030 for countries to be on the path towards cervical cancer elimination. The overall goal is for 90% of girls fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by age 15 years, 70% of women screened with a high-performance test by 35 and again by 45, and for 90% of women identified with cervical cancer to receive treatment.

Advancing global health equity has been central to USAID’s global initiatives, particularly concerning combating cervical cancer. By providing the proper care and treatment for women around the world, we are directly impacting the safety and prosperity of families, communities, and countries. That’s why USAID is collaborating with some of the USGLC’s incredible partners — Abbott, BD, and Roche — to work towards eliminating cervical cancer. Read on to see exactly how.


Abbott has developed an Alinity m high risk (HR) HPV test — a powerful HPV screening tool made to detect high-risk HPV infections. This test is designed to streamline HPV testing and is an innovation as it is one of the few HR HPV tests approved for primary screening and can provide genetic information for all 14 cancer-causing strains of HPV. This test allows healthcare providers to make more informed decisions about care and treatment options by providing a complete picture of the risk of disease progression. Abbott’s HR HPV test is also extremely accessible and helps hospitals and institutions who do not have as many resources or wealth.


BD is a founding member of The Global HPV Consortium – an organization that serves as a resource for national programs that are committed to ending cervical cancer. BD is leading the charge in advancing screening efforts through innovative health care technologies like automated molecular and cytology diagnostic products paired with informatics connectivity. BD emphasizes that it’s not just about developing technologies but ensuring that they are accessible to all who need them — no matter their location or socioeconomic status. In January of 2024, BD announced a partnership with the Kenyan government through the National Cancer Institute-Kenya to increase access to cancer diagnostics for Kenyan women. Through the program, BD will be able to carry out several activities including training community health volunteers about HPV self-sampling, establishing a Rapid Diagnostic Center at Mama Lucy Hospital in Nairobi, strengthening health care referral networks and linkage to care and more.


Roche envisions a world where no woman or person with a cervix dies from cervical cancer, and all women have access to early and accurate screening, diagnosis and treatment. Roche’s commitment to eliminating cervical cancer goes beyond its integrated portfolio, which includes high-performance HPV testing and digital platforms to support screening, early detection, and disease management programs. As an integrated company, Roche builds fit-for-purpose partnerships to address hurdles on a systemic level, focusing on prevention and early diagnosis. Since July 2021, Roche has been a part of Go Further: Partnership to End AIDS and Cervical Cancer, an innovative public-private partnership between the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the George W. Bush Institute, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and Merck (MSD). The partnership has been helping to create a healthier future for women across Africa, where the disease is the No.1 cancer killer, and women living with HIV are six times more likely to develop it. As of 2023, over 7.4 million women with HIV were screened for cervical cancer – more than 80% of them for the first time. In January, Roche was part of the White House Cervical Cancer Forum hosted to recognize Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and spur action on education, prevention, early detection, and treatment. During the meeting, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced a trial to test self-collection devices for HPV — an effort Roche will be part of. Also known as the ‘Last Mile’ Initiative, the partnership brings together multiple federal and private sector stakeholders to contribute evidence on the accuracy and clinical effectiveness of self-collection based HPV testing for cervical cancer screening.

Women around the globe deserve equitable access to healthcare and few diseases highlight the inequities of global health as sharply as cervical cancer. Let this Women’s History Month be a time to look back into the past and celebrate how far we’ve come but also look to the future to continue chugging towards equity and global health security.

Thank you to Abbott, BD, and Roche for sharing their stories with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition for Women’s History Month.