Women with HIV have a high risk of getting cervical cancer, but the traditional screening method for the disease — a pap smear — isn’t available in many poor countries.
Ricky Lu, an obstetrician-gynecologist with the international health group Jhpiego, is promoting a cervical cancer screening technique in which a nurse or a midwife simply swabs a woman’s cervix with vinegar (or diluted acetic acid) and then looks with the naked eye, or a magnifying glass, for pre-cancerous lesions. The screening technique requires only vaginal spoons, vinegar and a bit of training. It can be performed in the simplest health clinics without a need for laboratory tests or even electricity.
In the developing world, Lu says, public health providers need a cervical cancer screening tool that is fast, easy and inexpensive. “We need a test that is simple, practical and good enough to identify precancerous lesions,” he says. “And then also it’s critical that it is available where women come [for health care].”
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