PHILADELPHIA – Former President George W. Bush will visit Gaborone, Botswana, Thursday, July 5, to launch a program that will expand women’s health initiatives in that country.
Bush will also visit two Botswana-UPenn Partnership clinics that are currently the sites of See and Treat, the Partnership’s program that dramatically decreases the time needed for examination, diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer.
“President Bush will be visiting our clinic to see what we are doing to improve cervical-cancer care for HIV-infected women in Botswana,” said Harvey Friedman, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and director of the Botswana-UPenn Partnership.
The Bush Foundation has helped galvanize support for fighting breast cancer and cervical cancer.
At the 11:40 a.m. ceremony at Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, the former president will join with other dignitaries to announce that $3 million from the U.S. government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, will go to Botswana to expand See and Treat. This is part of a larger $10 million PEPFAR-supported program, in partnership with Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, earmarked for cervical- and breast-cancer care in Africa that includes projects in Zambia and Tanzania.
“The expectation is that, of the $3 million, $1.3 million will go to BUP and the rest to the Botswana Ministry of Health to work together to expand See and Treat,” Friedman said.
See and Treat was established in 2009, funded through PEPFAR and implemented by Botswana’s Ministry of Health with support by Penn and others. It has served more than 4,000 women in Botswana.
“See and Treat provides women a same-day visual examination, diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment,” said Doreen Ramogola-Masire, BUP country director “setting it apart from the more common pap-smear-and-lab-work protocol that can sometimes result in delays in diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.”
Cervical cancer, which is more common and more aggressive in women who are HIV-positive, is the second most common cancer in Botswana and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women in that country where HIV rates are among the highest in the world. If current trends continue, the World Health Organization projects a greater than 20 percent increase in cervical-cancer incidence and related deaths by 2025.
Right now, both See-and-Treat clinics run by the Partnership are in the capital city Gaborone, but none is in the more rural parts of the country. The scale-up of the program will establish five new sites across Botswana, giving women access to the same-day services. In serious cases, patients may be referred for additional diagnostics and treatment at other facilities.
See and Treat is also supported by the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon partnership, which includes many public and private sector organizations such as the George W. Bush Institute, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.