A three-Day IPVS Satellite Symposium on “Human Papillomavirus and Cervical Cancer” was held in the Prof Salimuzzaman Siddiqui Auditorium of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi, on Thursday.

Sindh Minister for Health and Population Welfare (PWD) Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, while speaking at the inaugural ceremony, has said that research on cervical cancer in women is imperative, as Human Papillomavirus (HPV) immunization of adolescent girls can substantially reduce the risk of cervical cancer in the country. The Sindh Health Ministry is in the process of initiating a well-structured immunization initiative along with international partners in high-risk populations.

The inaugural ceremony was also addressed by Vice-Chancellor University of Karachi Prof Dr Khalid Iraqi, Prof Dr Atta Ur Rahman, ICCBS Patron-in-chief and former Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Prof Dr M. Iqbal Choudhary, Director of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences, and COMSTECH Coordinator General, German Consul General Mr Rodiger Rotz, Prof Dr Thomas Iftner, Director Medical Virology Institute, University of Tübingen Germany, and Dr Atia-tul-Wahab.

The lady minister said that she firmly believed that only a healthy mother could raise a healthy family. She said that the health ministry had already initiated HPV screening in several maternity centers of mega cities of Sindh. I look forward to the advice and technical support of our international partners in this endeavor, she adds. I believe this IPVS Satellite Symposium is critically important to raise awareness about HPV associated diseases and to build capacity in HPV research, she said.

In recognition of the internationally reputed scientific excellence of the ICCBS, my ministry has decided to support various programs and initiatives of the ICCBS, she said

Later on, addressing a press conference on the issue of HPV and Cervical Cancer, she said that the provincial ministry was trying to enhance various immunization programs but the historical destruction of the ongoing flood had derailed all the activities. We do not have any data of Human Papillomavirus, and this is really a dilemma for this country, she lamented. She said that her ministry was currently engaged in handling the epic challenges of recent catastrophic floods.

“Our province and our people are affected the most, and thus we need to provide them with the basic necessities of life. This is also our duty to protect them from numerous life-threatening diseases, including dengue, gastro, water borne infections, and skin disorders,” she said.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Prof Khalid Iraqi welcomed the national and foreign delegates to Karachi University. He said that this was the first international event in Pakistan on the topic of papilloma virus infection which led to several health problems, including cervical cancer in the female population. He thanked the health minister for her continuous support to the leading institution of the University.

Prof Atta Ur Rahman, in his speech, highlighted the brief history of the center of excellence (ICCBS). Talking about the knowledge hub, he said that LEJ National Science Information Center at the ICCBS, University of Karachi was serving as a hub of information dissemination and propagation of knowledge in frontier sciences in Pakistan, equipped with cutting edge information and communication technologies and with full access to world’s largest digital library resources with full access of thousands of free e-books, uncountable free e-journals, thousands of free e-databases and free access of full-text research articles via inhouse digital library with 150+ Computer Terminals.

Prof Iqbal Choudhary said that this was quite important to underline the importance of handling HPV, which is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. He briefed the participants about various health related research projects being conducted at the Dr Panjwani center.

He said, “This is important to conduct research to understand the causes of HPV prevalence in the Pakistani population and to stop its unabated spread. The international center has taken a lead in the national cause.”

He appreciated the efforts of Dr. Azra for supporting healthcare research at the ICCBS. He also thanked the lady minister for her sustained support to this premier research institution of the University of Karachi.

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Author

Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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