Partners at the clinic launch, 1 March 2024

Cervical cancer elimination program launched in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea

News | Published on 01 Mar 2024

A new cervical cancer elimination program supported by the Kirby Institute and partners in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Australia has been launched in New Ireland Province, PNG. 

A team from the Kirby Institute were in PNG for two weeks to meet with stakeholders and support the clinical staff training, prior to a launch event for a new cervical screening clinic, which was held on 1 March and attended by 300 in-country partners, stakeholders and community leaders. Dr Stenard Hiasihri, CEO of New Ireland Provincial Health Authority, announced the opening of the new clinic in the provincial capital, Kavieng, as the first phase of the provincial elimination program. 

“We are delighted to officially open the new Lukautim Meri Klinik in partnership with Catholic Health Services, New Ireland," said Dr Hiasihri. "With colleagues from Papua New Guinea and Australia, we have trained 18 exceptional clinical staff from across the province this week in point-of-care HPV screening and same-day treatment, and are as of today ready to welcome the community to this new service.”

The initiative is supported by a landmark investment from the Australian Government that is jointly led by the Daffodil Centre (a joint venture between The University of Sydney and Cancer Council NSW), the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney, the Australian Centre for Prevention of Cervical Cancer (ACPCC), Family Planning Australia, National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), and Unitaid. 

“The Australian Government is proud to support New Ireland Province, PNG and countries across the Indo-Pacific region, in advancing cervical cancer elimination” said Anna Gilchrist, First Secretary, Health, Australian High Commission, Papua New Guinea, who attended the launch event via video link.

Papua New Guinea thermal ablation training

Thermal ablation training in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea.

“The Australian Government’s investment of $12.5 million for the Elimination Partnership in the Indo-Pacific for Cervical Cancer [EPICC] is a world-first initiative that will leverage longstanding local, regional and international partnerships to accelerate elimination in our region. This program represents a real opportunity to improve the lives of girls, women, their families, and their communities by tackling this entirely preventable disease,” she said. 

Professor Andrew Vallely, who leads the Kirby Institute's engagement in the collaborative initiative, also gave an address at the launch.

For Dr Paula Zzferio, Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at New Ireland Provincial Health Authority, the day was the culmination of years of fundraising activities and community events that have generated unprecedented support for the program locally. “This hugely generous investment from DFAT means that together with the funds we have already raised, and the incredible support provided by our provincial health authority and provincial government, we will be able to offer screening to all the 20,000 women aged 30-59 years across New Ireland," she said. "We will then use this as a foundation on which to build robust and sustainable HPV vaccination programs for our girls, and effective and equitable treatment and care programs for women found to have invasive disease.”

Cervical screening training in Papua New Guinea

Cervical screening training in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea.

The program builds on the successes of the Eliminating Cervical Cancer in the Western Pacific (ECCWP) program, funded by the Australian Minderoo Foundation, which has supported the introduction and scale-up of HPV-based cervical screening and treatment for women, and HPV vaccination for girls in Western Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea, and across the whole of Vanuatu.

Dr Paulus Ripa, who leads the ECCWP program in Western Highlands Province, attended the launch event in Kavieng. “I was delighted to be invited to this foundational event and to have this opportunity to extend our heartfelt support, friendship and partnership to all the people of New Ireland and specifically to your visionary leaders in health, Dr Hiasihri and Dr Zzferio. We are absolutely thrilled that we will now be working together with you in the fight to eliminate cervical cancer in PNG.” 

Exterior shot of cervical cancer clinic opening in Papua New Guinea

Cervical cancer clinic opening in New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea.

Header image credit

Left-Right: Professor Andrew Vallely, Kirby Institute; Josephine Gabuzzi, Western Highlands Province Health Authority (WHPHA); Dr Stenard Hiasihri, New Ireland Province Health Authority (NIPHA); Dr Paulus Ripa, WHPHA; Dr Paula Zzferio, NIPHA