Joint statement on sexual and reproductive health and rights at the WHO

Executive Board of the World Health Organization

Item 9: cervical cancer

Joint statement by 19 Member States

Geneva, 5 February 2020

Mr. Speaker,

I speak on behalf of France, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxemburg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom.

This statement also has the support of Australia, and we would like to thank them on this occasion for this resolution dedicated to the prevention of cervical cancer.

Our countries subscribe to the observations and orientations of the WHO 2020-2030 strategy to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem. This strategy emphasizes the burden of cervical cancer, as an indicator of inequalities, and highlights the importance of prevention through vaccination targets (90% of young girls under 15 years of age to be vaccinated by 2030), prevention tests (70% of women aged 35 to 45 will have to have undergone high-performance tests), and the importance of treatment (90% of women diagnosed will have to have been treated).

We have two messages:

First, a specific message regarding vaccination against HPV. It is obvious that in vaccination programs, vaccination of girls is paramount. As recommended by WHO, prevention of cervical cancer is best achieved through the immunization of girls. HPV vaccines should be introduced as part of a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to prevent cervical and other cancers caused by HPV. These strategies should include comprehensive sexual education for boys and girls, to raise awareness of HPV and promote behaviors that reduce the risk of acquiring the infection. To date, an increasing number of countries are also integrating the vaccination of boys into their immunization schedules, including in schools, to increase herd immunity in their population.

Also, in order to achieve the best prevention of cervical cancer it is important to focus on the combination of both vaccination and screening. Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure that women who undergo screening also have access to appropriate treatment and care.

The second, more general message is related to PP8 of the resolution. We would like to reaffirm the support of our countries for sexual and reproductive health and rights, which are essential for the achievement of sustainable development goals, in particular SDGs 3 and 5. Sexual and reproductive rights are the rights of every person to decide freely and responsibly on all matters related to sexuality. They aim to ensure that no one is discriminated against, coerced or subjected to violence in their sexual life and to guarantee freedom to decide freely on the number, spacing and timing of children, as well as access to information, education and the means to do so.

As recalled on the occasion of the celebration of the Cairo Programme of Action at the Nairobi Summit last November, no rollback on these fundamental rights should be tolerated. The full recognition of these rights is indispensable for the reduction of inequalities between women and men.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights will be at the heart of the discussions and commitments made at the Generation Equality Forum, as a coalition of action will be devoted to them. This major meeting in favour of women’s rights and the reduction of gender inequalities will be held in Mexico City on 7 and 8 May and in Paris from 7 to 10 July.

Thank you very much.

Courtesy translation of the original statement in French

Last updated on: 7 February 2020