Dr. Arliene Penn speaks during an Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States meeting last October in the territory. (Photo: GIS)

Every year, cervical cancer kills more than 35,000 women in the Americas, and 80 percent of them are in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Pan American Health Organisation.

A new partnership in the Virgin Islands aims to tackle the problem by educating the region about the disease, which is highly preventable. In his message on Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, which is observed internationally in January, Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley said former Mrs. BVI Globe Dr. Arliene Penn will serve as an ambassador to assist the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States in executing its strategy to tackle cervical cancer.

“Too many women are dying from what is preventable, and OECS leaders have agreed that we must do something now to eradicate cervical cancer across the region, for it is a problem,” Mr. Wheatley said.


The minister — who is the chairman of the 36th OECS Pooled Procurement Services Policy Board Meeting and the Ninth OECS Council of Ministers of Health — said Dr. Penn is expected to travel throughout the region as part of the job. Along the way, she will educate men as well as women, he said.

“We know that Dr. Penn is passionate about this subject, and we could not ask for a better ambassador,” he said.

Locally, he added, the acting chief medical officer and the health team at Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital will do their part by making available the vaccines that prevent the human papilloma virus thought to be responsible for more than 90 percent of cervical cancers.

Since early detection can lead to life-saving treatment, Mr. Wheatley also urged women to schedule annual check-ups for cervical cancer.

OECS meeting

Dr. Penn, who was crowned Mrs. BVI Globe in April 2022, delivered the feature address at a meeting of OECS health ministers and other officials hosted by the VI in October.

In the speech, she shared her personal experience with cervical cancer and offered tips for preventing it and other non-communicable diseases.