Global Women’s Health: Human Papilloma Virus

HPV=Human Papilloma Virus

HPV is responsible for cervical cell changes that can become cervical cancer.  Our body’s immune system clears most HPV infections.

Some HPV viral infections may lead to an infection that changes the cells of the cervix.

WHO Cervical Cancer

Human Papilloma Virus Research

Eshetu Lemma studies HPV.

“Cervical cancer is 100% preventable.”

These are the words of Eshetu Lemma Haile, MSc, MA, a brilliant young scientist engaged in research on the human papillomavirus (HPV). 

In 2015 Mr. Lemma worked in the International Clinical Laboratory and at the HEMA laboratory in Addis Ababa when he learned that IPRH was returning to Adama, Ethiopia, to continue the cervical cancer screening project at Sister Aklesia Memorial Hospital. I connected with Eshetu via email, and we started the beginning of a long friendship. 

This month, we focus on the work of Eshetu Lemma Haile, a PhD. candidate. 

 Hologic Corporation Donation

Eshetu is a dedicated researcher who was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His father and mother reside in Addis Ababa, as do his 2 brothers and his sister. Eshetu is married to Betselot and has two young sons and a daughter. Mavel is eighteen years of age, and Nathaniel is twelve, Yoseus is ten years of age. The demands of research are often in conflict with family, but Eshetu manages to do both quite well.

IPRH and Eshetu commit to the eradication of cervical cancer worldwide.

Through the generosity of Hologic, IPRH provided five hundred vials of ThinPrep solution and four hundred and fifty collection devices for collecting and studying cervical cell samples. Mr. Lemma’s research focuses on self-collection/testing compared to collection performed by physicians. The study of self-collection may be extremely beneficial for women living outside of large cities like Addis Ababa and Adama. Mr. Lemma stated that more than 80% of women reside in rural communities. The possibility of self-collection may be the most efficient way to identify Ethiopian women who are at risk for developing cervical cancer.

Improving HPV Data

There are additional conditions that impact reliable detection initiatives; for example, Ethiopia has a significant need for pathologists. The work of the pathologist requires a scanning electron microscope to analyze the cervical cells. The appearance of cervical cells changes dramatically due to HPV infection. Cells that show pre-cancer changes can be treated, and cells that show signs of cervical cancer need treatment very quickly. Mr. Lemma stated that there is a critical need for pathologists in Ethiopia, there are 15 pathologists, and their workload is overwhelming. The use of telepathology (digital transfer of images) makes the job easier. Digital images use telecommunications technology to transfer data. 

I asked Eshetu how he became interested in HPV and cervical cancer. His immediate answer was that cervical cancer is 100 % preventable. He went on to say that 80% of women seeking care for symptoms are diagnosed with advanced stages of cervical cancer. He also noted that the uptake of the HPV vaccine is very costly for the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to provide. Although the Global Alliance of Vaccines and Immunizations) (GAVI) offsets the cost of the HPV vaccine for developing countries; however, vaccinating eligible populations would still be extremely expensive.

Don’t Wait To Get Your Cervical Cancer Screening

Mr. Lemma’s HPV research has identified several high-risk (HR) HPV types-51,52, and 58 in Ethiopia. Worldwide, the HR HPV types that significantly increase the risk of cervical cancer are HPV 16 and HPV 18. 

Mr. Lemma is the Principal Investigator on an Ethiopian Ministry of Health project studying antibodies to COVID-19 in Ethiopia and a study conducted by the American Society of Clinical Colposcopists and Pathologists (ASCCP). 

The urgent message for many women is to get their cervical cancer screening done. Early detection will save your life.

HPV testing on vaginal/cervical nurse-assisted self-samples versus clinician-taken specimens and the HPV prevalence, in Adama Town, Ethiopia