UP SHS provides papsmears

Correction: In a previous version of this article, it was written that “…this subsidy is limited to two students per UP campus per year.” However, Johan Maritz, Senior Manager at the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G), said that they “have funding to subsidise about 25 pap smear tests per quarter – regardless from which campus they are from”. Sr Coetzee verified that, “…we do 2 pap smears per campus per month not per year, which amount[s] to about 10 per month”. The article has since been corrected and Perdeby apologises for any inconvenience caused. 

 

Henri Uys

UP’s Student Health Services (SHS) provide Papanicolaou tests (pap smears) to students. These tests are used to test whether a female patient might have cervical cancer. If a student cannot afford a test, she can pay R55 only and the remaining R100 of the test’s cost is subsidised. However, Johan Maritz, Senior Manager at the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G), said that they “have funding to subsidise about 25 pap smear tests per quarter – regardless from which campus they are from”. Sr Coetzee verified that, “…we do 2 pap smears per campus per month not per year, which amount[s] to about 10 per month”.

According to an article on Marie Stopes South Africa’s website, one in 41 South African women are affected by cervical cancer. Around 16.84 million women over the age of 15 are at risk of getting cervical cancer, according to Statistics South Africa. According to an article on Medicine.net’s website, there are no symptoms of cervical cancer in its early stages. When symptoms do appear, these may include unusual vaginal bleeding, painful sexual intercourse and longer or heavier menstruation periods. Perdeby spoke to SHS HOD, Sr. Hannelie Coetzee. Coetzee said that pap smears are used to detect cellular changes in the cervix, most of which are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). If something abnormal is detected, treatment can start early to prevent the cancer from spreading and causing more harm. Coetzee explained how the process works. Before a pap smear is administered, there are strict criteria which needs to be followed. Pap smears are expensive treatments, Coetzee said. A pap smear will only be administered if absolutely necessary. A full medical examination is done. This includes a pelvic examination.

If any abnormalities are found, the sister can recommend a pap smear to the patient. Once a pap smear has been administered, the samples are sent to an external laboratory. The results of the test gets hand-delivered back to the SHS and kept in the patient’s file. The patient returns for a follow-up consultation where the results of the pap smear are discussed with the her. According to an article on Healthline’s website, some women might need more frequent tests. It is advisable to go for pap smears once every two to three years, starting at age 21. The pathologist, who examines the pap smear samples, may also recommend when a patient should get another pap smear. Coetzee said that UP SHS also provides immunization treatments for cervical cancer. However, these treatments are expensive and patients will need to pay for these treatments themselves. Coetzee added that patients who may have cervical cancer (after a pap smear has been administered) are treated by the SHS. Johan Maritz, senior coordinator at the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G) said, “This is a joint initiative between the CSA&G and Student Health Services. It is an important initiative as not all students have access to medical aids and private health care. So it is important to make this service, which is key to women’s health, more affordable and especially to those in need and who are more vulnerable. It is however only a limited number of these tests that can be subsidised after we secured an external grant.” Maritz added if women smoke, are sexually active, are HIV-positive or have been previously diagnosed with HPV, they should get themselves tested. The pap smear tests are available on all of UP’s campuses, where a sister is available to administer the test.

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