After a two-hour journey I arrived in Huarina town, close to Lake Titicaca. It has its own health centre. Today is a special day because today the Jornada de Salud (health day) takes place, organized by Oikocredit partner CRECER.
This jornada takes place twice a year in Huarina and enables local women to get tested for cervical cancer. It was hard for me to pronounce the name of the test: col-pos-co-pí-a. The advantage of the colposcopía (colposcopy) is that the results can be shared with the patient immediately.
Dr Alejandro Cruz explained how the patient examinations are carried out. There is a screen to show the woman what the doctor sees and to help explain each patient’s state of health.
Bolivia has the second highest mortality rate for cervical cancer in Latin America (only Haiti has higher rates). The incidence of cervical cancer in Bolivia is five times higher than in the USA. There are many institutions offering free cervical smear tests, but the results are not always reliable or not delivered on time to the patient (indeed, in some cases they are never delivered). Moreover, some women avoid doing the test altogether as a consequence of having to wait a long time for the results.
Dr Cruz expects 20 patients for a colposcopy today. It is not easy to get so many women to attend the jornada. Crecer need to raise awareness among rural women of the importance of the tests. The village banks’ training sessions help to achieve this goal.
They also need to find doctors like Dr Cruz who are willing to travel to rural areas to work with the women. A colposcopy test costs BOB 50 (BOB= Bolivian Boliviano – about € 5.46) which is the equivalent of eight litres of soda or three to four papayas. Crecer subsidizes the price of the test by covering Dr Cruz’s transportation expenses and organizing the logistics. Dr Cruz tests about 3,000 women in one year. Most of the women are CRECER clients, but all women are welcome to take the test.