Within the framework of the Global Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) are assisting Uzbekistan, a lower-middle-income country of 33 million inhabitants, with cervical cancer prevention.
At the end of 2019, UNFPA and the French Embassy in Uzbekistan joined forces with the WHO Regional Office for Europe and IARC in their efforts to support Uzbekistan in running a pilot study of cervical cancer screening. The aim of the pilot study is to introduce the human papillomavirus (HPV) test as a cervical cancer screening method in the country. The HPV test is a much more sensitive and reliable test to identify precancerous lesions than the smear-based test using Romanowsky–Giemsa staining that is currently used in Uzbekistan.
The preparatory work has continued even during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic through remote online consultations, with discussions focusing on development of the piloting scheme, assessment of different HPV test platforms and identification of the most effective option for Uzbekistan, and collection of information on demographic profiles of pilot areas.
The development and launch of the pilot cervical cancer screening programme is in line with the national priorities of Uzbekistan in its health sector and was approved in Presidential Resolution 4513, adopted on 8 November 2019. The pilot study that UNFPA, IARC, WHO, and the French Embassy in Uzbekistan are currently developing in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan is expected to lead to the launch of the national cervical cancer screening programme. In Uzbekistan, cervical cancer is responsible for more than 1600 new cases and more than 850 deaths per year.