HPV COALITION WAS CREATED
On March 9th specialists in the field of virology, oncology, pediatrics and general medicine created a national, expert, non-governmental coalition for active prevention of diseases, related to the human papillomavirus. Momchil Baev, MD, founder and chairman of Astra Forum Foundation is a member of the coalition, which is supported by the World Health Organization, National Network for Children and Patient Portal. The virologist Professor Radka Argirova referred to the establishment of the HPV Coalition as a historic event for Bulgaria.
Everyone agrees that on Bulgarian territory, the HPV morbidity is not only high, but alarming. According to statistics in Bulgaria, every day a woman dies from cervical cancer (HPV) and 44 women are diagnosed with HPV. Bulgaria takes the third place in Europe for morbidity and fourth place for mortality by this specific type of cancer, caused by HPV.
Certainly, there is an effective prophylaxis – an HPV vaccine, but the vaccination range in Bulgaria is only 3%, even though the vaccine is free of charge for young girls at the age of 10-13.
A virus infection, which is primarily spread via sexual contact with an infected individual. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection worldwide. In most cases, HPV infections disappear spontaneously, without causing visible symptoms or problems. However, sometimes they can remain in the body and over the years they can cause some of the following complications.
There are more than 200 different types of HPV existing. 14 of them are high risk for cancerous diseases, the most carcinogenic are HPV16 and HPV18. Cancerous diseases, cause by HPV virus are the only ones who can be prevented, using vaccination.
Momchil Baev, MD, during the discussion panel, reminded the audience what an important role general practitioners have in the system. According to him, they are one of the most important departments in the healthcare system and in the problems of vaccine prophylaxis.
In his words, it is important for every doctor to have the ability to communicate in a meaningful way with their patients, to be their guide.
“If doctors have the time to communicate with their patients and explain to them that the vaccines are safe, more people will be able to make informed and correct decisions.”
“The main element for good vaccination coverage is good communication between doctor and patient.”
Momchil Baev posed an important and relevant question, which is one of the reasons for the alarming morbidity results – “why does the National program for HPV prevention only include young girls?”
HPV has an impact on a serious percent of the men, society must be informed of that and the government must invest in vaccine prophylaxis, because prevention costs significantly less than treatment, and it spares suffering and life years of the patients.
Unfortunately, a larger part of the information, regarding the human papillomavirus is concentrated on women.
The American center for control and prevention of diseases has established that more than half of the male population worldwide gets infected with HPV at some point in their lives.
Baev also reminded that during the First national conference for vaccine preventable diseases, organized by Astra Forum Foundation, a large part of doctors requested the HPV vaccine to be mandatory for Bulgarian citizens, not only for girls. “It is not relevant to speak of this problem from this perspective. We must certainly include young boys.”
At the event, AP Mihail Okoliyski, chairman of the WHO office in Bulgaria, stated that the elimination of HPV requires a wide informational campaign and sexual education, in order for them to want to get vaccinated and to insist on it. He also stated that Bulgaria is significantly falling behind, compared to other countries, where the vaccine is available. AP Okoliyski gave an example with our neighbor – Romania, where over 100 000 girls have been vaccinated against HPV.
Dr. Iordanka Uzunova made a suggestion for the age range of the vaccination to be expanded to the ages of 9 to 12. In her words in the future national program, besides the vaccination of boys, there must be an established vaccination coverage goal of over 90 out of 100 among young girls and 50 of 100 among young boys, by 2030.
AP Ilia Karagiozov, chairman of the Bulgarian Oncogynecology Association, emphasized that another important step, which needs to be accomplished in battling HPV, is a national screening program at a population level and adequate education of gynecologists.
- HPV Coalition to request a report from the Ministry of Health on the implementation of the National program at least once a year.
- To be informed and to remind the public that HPV has an impact on both genders. Therefore, the name of the National program for vaccine prophylaxis of cervical cancer must be changed, in order to include young boys.
- Doctors against vaccines – doctors who disagree with something related to medicine, or do not have enough information about it, must seek information before they deny it without justification.
- Journalists, who write about health prophylaxis to describe it not as an expense, but an investment, because every lev that is sent towards prophylaxis, saves significant funds for treatments. Professor Argirova also reminded the audience that it is not a coincidence that the Ministry of Health carries that name, and not Ministry of Treatment.