|Pretoria, South Africa|
|22-23 May 2014|
Kick-off start of the WAKA project
This two-day symposium was co-hosted by the University of Limpopo, Medunsa Campus (Prof Jeffrey Mphahlele and Dr Lisbeth Lebelo) and the University of Antwerp in Belgium (Prof John Paul Bogers and Prof Jean-Pierre van Geertruyden). Each participating country presented data on previous ongoing or planned HPV research. The meeting was attended by a total of 29 delegates from 7 sub-Saharan countries and 4 delegates from Flanders in Belgium. The African countries that participated included Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and South Africa.
The symposium discussed previous and ongoing HPV research in Africa, and explored how to share expertise, collaborate and strengthen HPV research in the region, through the establishment of the African HPV Research Network of universities and interested parties. This research network was subsequently named WAKA HPV AFRICA. The meeting focused on practical issues related to cervical and other HPV-related cancers, with special attention being given to sub-Saharan Africa. The specific objectives of the meeting were to:
- Showcase previous and ongoing HPV research in Africa;
- Assess research gaps in the field of HPV in different participating countries;
- Stimulate research interest in HPV in countries where research is limited;
- Collaborate and share expertise in HPV research;
- Discuss and propose practical ways to strengthen capacity of laboratories to detect and characterise circulating HPV types in cervical and other cancers in the African region;
- Strengthen HPV research in the African region through the establishment of the African HPV Research Network of universities and interested parties;
- Encourage the network to set up surveillance studies together with Ministries of Health to allow future monitoring of the impact of HPV vaccination programmes and the emergence and spread of rare and novel HPV types as HPV vaccination programmes become more widespread on the African continent.
The delegates found the symposium to be of great value. The lessons learnt will be useful as more African countries in the future embark on strengthening laboratory capacity in the detection and characterisation of HPV types. Surveillance of circulating HPV types in cervical and other cancers in the African region before and after introduction of HPV vaccine is necessary for the development of future HPV vaccines. High uptake of the HPV vaccine and timeous cervical cancer screening are necessary to ensure that every girl in every village is protected from the devastating consequences of cervical and other HPV cancers. The meeting was made possible by an educational grant from the Flemish Inter-University Council (VLIR-lUC) in Belgium for North South South (NSS) collaborations.