“Despite considerable advances in medicine and gender equality, women today face many challenges when it comes to their health and wellbeing,” says Kerishnie Naiker, Director: Communications of Netcare.
“For example, topics such as cervical cancer have remained controversial and have not received nearly as much attention as other life-threatening illnesses in women. This is most disconcerting when one considers that cervical cancer is largely preventable with vaccination against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV)."
"HPV is a sexually transmitted infection which affects approximately 80% of all men and women who are sexually active.”
One of the reasons why this has been challenging to address is because of the incorrect perception that sexual promiscuity lies at the heart of this disease. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Apart from this, cervical cancer can be very difficult to treat as it is often detected when it is too late.
Young girls at great risk of cervical cancer
Even in cases where the disease is diagnosed fairly early, extensive and often protracted treatment, such as surgery and chemotherapy, is needed. With all this in mind one can only ask whether forgoing this Nobel Prize-winning vaccination is worth the risk.”
“Also of great concern is the fact that it is younger girls who are exposed to the virus, which is increasingly prevalent in HIV positive individuals,” explains Naiker, who is also a qualified pharmacist.
It is with this in mind that Netcare has put its weight firmly behind the fight against cervical cancer with its active support of “Dance for a Cure”, a community-driven volunteer-based organisation dedicated to taking the HPV vaccine to underprivileged children. Netcare has since 2009 given its time and resources to assist this organisation in reaching as many children as possible.
How Netcare is helping rape victims
"We were also the first organisation to list the vaccine as a recommended childhood vaccination through Netcare Stork’s Nest.”
According to Naiker, Netcare has long been a firm supporter of women’s rights and has over the years actively demonstrated this in, for example, its countrywide provision of post-sexual assault care centres. According to Media24, it is estimated that a woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read.
Netcare introduced South Africa’s first privately run centre for rape survivors in 1998. The group now has 37 Rape Crisis Centres in operation throughout the country. The Netcare Rape Crisis Centres are integrated into the emergency departments of the majority of Netcare hospitals.
The centres offer free counselling to women during crisis and for a year thereafter. If necessary, antiretroviral therapy and medication to prevent conception is also offered. Dedicated to providing professional healthcare and compassion to survivors of rape, these specialist units have collectively treated in excess of 7 000 patients since their inception, 84% of whom were female.
Women are offered healthcare skills and support
Two new Rape Crisis Centres recently opened at Netcare St Augustine’s and Netcare Waterfall City hospitals.
Naiker observes that the aim of the Netcare Rape Crisis Centres is to provide rape survivors with holistic treatment, which not only addresses their physical wounds but also attempts to assist them in overcoming emotional trauma. “The units are all staffed by caring and compassionate individuals who are there for those in need in their time of crisis.
In the case of child victims we work closely with organisations such as the Teddy Bear and Rainbow clinics. We also have a good working relationship with the SAPS to whom we report all rapes on behalf of those who have been affected. This means that patients can come straight to one of our centres without being sent from pillar to post.”
Netcare largely engages in women’s health initiatives by offering professional healthcare skills, time and personal support to those in need. The group is dedicated to uplifting underprivileged girls and women in any way that it can.
Long way to go
One such recent example was the donation of one million sanitary towels to the Free State Department of Health for distribution to schoolgirls who cannot afford to buy these basic essentials.
“It came to our attention that young girls in underprivileged communities in the Free State were missing school during their monthly menstrual cycles because of a lack of access to sanitary towels,” says Naiker. “It is heart-breaking to think that what many women simply take for granted can prevent others from exercising their right to something as important as education.”
While Netcare continues to make great strides in meeting important healthcare needs of South African women, Naiker points out that there is still much to be done. “We are humbled to be able to play a role in uplifting and empowering the women of our nation.
However, there is a long way to go before we see all women in South Africa gain access to the healthcare services which can assist them in truly taking care of themselves. Netcare is fully committed to pursuing this vision and will contribute to the wellbeing of our women wherever possible.”
Netcare to launch unit for breast cancer screening
One of our most exciting initiatives to date is a soon-to-be launched mobile mammography unit, which will visit women living in rural areas in order to provide them with access to potentially life-saving breast cancer screening.
“If detected early most types of breast cancer have a good prognosis nowadays. Unfortunately many South African women are just not aware of this and simply do not have access to modern medical facilities of this nature.”
Naiker asserts that even the greatest healthcare challenge can be overcome with modern medicine and pro-active care. “All that is needed is the will and the drive to assist women in meeting these challenges head on. Netcare is fully committed to helping to meet the needs of women, no matter how impossible the task may seem,” she concludes.
(Press release, August 2011)