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Campaign for the prevention of cervical cancer in Bolivia.

In the context of May 28, International Day of Action for Women's Health, Catolicas por el Derecho a Decidir (Catholics for the Right to Decide, CDD/Bolivia) held a campaign for the prevention of cervical cancer, offering free pap smears to women residing in Villa Apana, a poor neighborhood in the south of the city.

This campaign set a target objective of serving 60 women, age 20 and older who had children. The women were given counseling about how the pap test was used for the early detection of cervical cancer or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and based on the test results, they were referred to a specialized clinic for treatment. As Lucia Vargas, the campaign organizer explained, "We need to raise consciousness--among the population in general and among women in particular--on the importance of having regular pap smears to detect cervical cancer at an early stage, since this cancer can be treated if it is caught early enough. It is about exercising rights and part of women's reproductive rights."

In order to implement the campaign, Catolicas por el Derecho a Decidir partnered with the Chasquipampa clinic, whose medical staff took the samples and returned the results. The clinic also offered treatment in the case of STIs and referred women with cervical cancer to hospitals specializing in the treatment of this illness. CDD/Bolivia was responsible for the costs of the medical supplies used in taking the samples and also undertook an informative, consciousness-raising campaign among the women of Villa Apana over the course of the year.

Villa Apana is located in a resource-poor area of the city near Ovejuyo. It is nearly a rural settlement and has access to only limited basic services. The local school only goes up to eighth grade. Women work primarily as domestics or in the informal sector, and most of them have not completed high school. The local rural clinic has been closed due to the lack of medical personnel and supplies, which makes it difficult for the women to get regular medical care, much less a pap smear. As Vargas explains, "The right to health is a human right and that is why women should be able to access these services free from restrictions or exclusions."

CDD/Bolivia defends and promote sexual rights and reproductive rights. The organization has been working with young people and women in Villa Apana since early 2010 as part of the project "Education in Health, Sexual Rights and Reproductive Rights for Women and Young People for the Prevention of Maternal Mortality and Adolescent Pregnancy in Chasquipampa, Ovejuyo and Villa Apana in the Municipality of La Paz." This campaign will be repeated in the other two zones of the municipality in the coming months.

Cervical cancer is caused by the human papiloma virus (HPV), which is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse. Pap smears can detect this STI in its early stages (as well as cases of cervical cancer). According to Bolivia's Ministry of Health, four women die every day in this country as the result of cervical cancer, which could be prevented by having a yearly pap.

* For more information, contact Silvia Salinas, CDD/Bolivia, cddbolivia@

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Title Annotation:NEWS AND MEETINGS
Publication:Women's Health Journal
Geographic Code:3BOLI
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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