Marking one year since the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global commitment to eliminate cervical cancer, the Australian Government is investing $5.8 million to back our pledge to be the first nation in the world to achieve this goal.

The National Cervical Screening Program encourages a simple five-yearly test (changed from every two years in 2017) that checks for HPV – a common infection that causes almost all cervical cancers – before any cancerous cells develop.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said this program had been a game-changer in Australia’s efforts to eliminate cervical cancer.

“In the program’s 30 years it has halved the incidence of cervical cancer and mortality in Australia,” Minister Hunt said.

“We however do not rest on our laurels, there is more work to be done. Our Government continues to work to ensure as many people as possible engage with the support available, particularly by ensuring access and equity in under-screened groups.”

“The funding announced today will support the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer to collaboratively develop a National Cervical Cancer Elimination Strategy by the end of 2022 to help us ensure our goal of eliminating cervical cancer as a public health concern is met by 2035.”

The Strategy will require coordinated efforts throughout the health system to overcome cultural and structural barriers to cervical cancer prevention programs and treatment, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other under-screened populations.

The funding will also support Australia’s largest clinical trial, the Compass Trial, which will produce world-first evidence on the interactions between HPV vaccination and HPV-based screening. The trial will inform improvements to the National Cervical Screening Program to ensure participants continue to receive the right care.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Women, Marise Payne, said Australia was committed to the WHO’s elimination strategy by championing and leading the resolution on the Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer.

“We are committed to continued support for this and other global initiatives on cervical cancer elimination,” Minister Payne said.

“Australia’s HPV vaccination program and National Cervical Screening Program are world-leading and have put us on track to eliminate cervical cancer by 2035.”

Developed at the University of Queensland, the introduction of the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) onto Australia’s National Immunisation Program was a world first, and will help to protect young people from getting a range of HPV-related cancers and diseases, such as cervical cancer. Since 2012-13, we have spent close to $386 million on HPV vaccines and distributed around 6.4 million doses.

The introduction in July 2022 of self-collection for cervical screening tests, announced on 8 November 2021 is expected to encourage many more women to take the test by making the process easier, more comfortable and less invasive.

Australia will be one of the first countries in the world to offer the ‘game-changing’ self-collect option through our National Cervical Screening Program.

Ensuring access and equity in the prevention, early detection and treatment of cervical cancer will be central to reach the WHO elimination targets in Australia.