According to the latest figures released by Stats SA in 2014, the scales remain tilted in favour of men with regards to education and literacy, employment and financial standing, however it is common knowledge that women form the backbone of most societies. Without a healthy female core, the social, as well as economic growth of the country will dramatically decline.
A global outfit that recognizes this, with a branch in South Africa, is SunEdison, the world's leading Solar and largest Renewable Energy Development Company who is also a shareholder of Firefly Investments 230 (RF) (Pty) Ltd ("Boshof Solar Park"). "By caring for the health of the mothers, wives, sisters, aunties and grannies in our communities, we are able to give something meaningful back to our valued local entrepreneurs, workforce and country," says Andrew Johnson, head of services, Boshof Solar – Firefly Investments 230 (RF) (Pty) Ltd.
"As the town of Boshof falls within the immediate community surrounding the Boshof Solar Park, in the Free State, it made perfect sense to stage a wellness day there," comments Johnson. "We partnered with UDoTest, a South African company comprising a highly qualified team of young professionals who have a keen interest in the growing prevalence of cervical cancer in South Africa, as well as other diseases."
On February 25 at the Boshof Community Hall between 08h00 and 16h00, 125 km away from Bloemfontein, 400 community women between the ages of 30 and 70, arrived to be tested. The response was overwhelming and far more participants arrived than expected. Of the 250 women who were eligible to be screened using the D.I.Y. UDoHPVTest for cervical cancer risks, 62 are currently receiving treatment. Many of these women had never had a Pap smear before and many didn't even know what a Pap smear was.
"The Boshof Wellness Day, organised by Boshof Solar Park, was our very first rural HPV screening day," says Allison Martin, the brains behind UDoTest. "To say that we were pleased with the outcome would be a complete understatement. It was incredible to see how young and old women wanted to get involved and learn as much as they could about the screening process and about the disease. The thirst for knowledge was enormous and the gratitude and excitement, palpable." UDoTest not only benefits the individual, private and public companies, but is set to also benefit the South African economy as a whole. The UDoTest mobile wellness platform is able to service the rural areas of South Africa and reach the people who need access to healthcare the most. "This sustainable screening program and service for communities, coupled with patient counselling and support, as well as effective reporting, is a necessity for our women, our workforce and our country," says Allison Martin.
Of all cancers, cervical cancer has the highest percentage death rate amongst women in South Africa. According to the WHO, it is estimated that this disease kills approximately 10 women in the country every day. In addition to this, only 13% of South African women are diligently screening.
"These alarming statistics should be seen in the context of cervical cancer as a preventable disease," says Martin. "With that in mind we can do so much amongst women in many of these rural areas by simple health education and screening with our UDoHPVTest. To save a mother is to save a family and a community." The innovative, unique and highly accurate method of do-it-yourself pathology testing and collection, is the first of its kind in South Africa. "The UDoHPVTest is more accurate than a traditional Pap smear in detecting cervical cancer risks," says Martin. "The essence to our tests lies in the back-end technology which ensures smarter and less frequent testing." In any country, a successful and optimally functioning population-based screening programme for cervical cancer, would require significant resources and effort. Appropriately equipped and staffed facilities, for both diagnosis and treatment, are essential. The population also needs to be informed of the necessity for screening. Many women in South Africa are minimally literate and have little knowledge about cervical cancer and the tests to screen for it.
Adequate communication channels to inform women about abnormal test results and timing of follow-up screening tests are also crucial to ensure proper functioning of a formal population-based screening programme. The majority of South African women are not easily contactable or accessible by the postal services to receive test results.
"We are in regular contact with members of the South African HPV advisory board and the Department of Health," says Martin. "The Boshof Wellness Day was a milestone for UDoTest and clearly illustrated our ability and passion to effectively service the public sector. The stage has now been set for further UDoTests to take place throughout the country."
UDoTest was established in 2012 and is a company committed to educating and empowering all South Africans by means of giving them access to healthcare services. UDoTest brings the latest technology in molecular testing and currently offers home testing for HPV and STDs, whilst researching and developing screening for other illnesses & diseases.