The West Virginia University School of Medicine's Department of Community Medicine hosted a lecture Wednesday on the prevalence and impact of HIV- and AIDS-related cancers on sub-Saharan Africa and the measures WVU and its partners in Kenya are taking to address the problem.
Scot C. Remick, director of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at WVU, presented his lecture, "Building Capacity for AIDS Malignancy Clinical Trials in Africa," at the Pylons Learning Center of the Health Sciences Center. Remick has worked in East Africa since 1997, focusing in Uganda and Kenya.
The lecture highlighted the growing problem of AIDS-related cancers in sub-Saharan Africa and the need for increased in-country training and research capacities to address the problem.
"Cancer is every bit a public health problem. There are estimates that are now clear that as of 2010, the most common cause of death worldwide is cancer," Remick said. "More people die of cancer than of HIV infection, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Seventy percent of that cancer burden will occur in underdeveloped nations."
According to Remick, 15-20 percent of the world's cancer burden can be attributed to transmittable disease, including HIV/AIDS. The high number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa contributes to the continent's high number of cancer patients.
"The percentage of population under 25 years of age in Africa is 71 percent. The average life expectancy is about 46 years," he said. "When you compound that with the realities of the AIDS epidemic and looking at the burden that is emerging with cancer, you can see the need."
Remick outlined the goals of the work he is doing with WVU and the University of Nairobi to address this growing problem in Kenya.
The goals include training pathologists, creating a registry that will highlight links between AIDS and cancer and to enhance in-country clinical trials and research capacity for HIV-associated malignancies at the Kenyatta National Hospital.
Remick also said working as a physician in developing countries presented unique challenges in patient care.
"On my first trips there, you'd have two patients in beds, head to toe," he said. "In one day, I received more different types of pediatric cancer than I'd seen almost in my entire career."
The capacity for the Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya's main national, referral and teaching hospital, is 2,400, Remick said, but daily occupancy is usually closer to 3,000.
"You don't know what busy is until you have been a physician in Africa," he said.
Janelle Graves, a public health student, said the lecture highlighted the importance of understanding
and being proactive in battling the HIV/AIDS epidemic across the globe.
"There are a lot of politics involved with public health in general and it usually doesn't go
in our favor until it's too late, and it's already past too late," Graves said. "I think it's good that he's bringing in these grants and he's addressing the adversity that he's had to deal with and is showing that there is still hope."
Bambi Bevill, a masters of public health student, said Remick's work was an inspiration for anyone
invested in all forms of public health concerns.
"It almost made me cry. I really had no idea of the need and I had no idea the need was so vast,"
Bevill said. "Even if this is not your area of interest or someplace you're ever going to go, how could you not be concerned about something that's such a big deal? The fact that WVU is involved in such an international effort of such incredible need is really quite impressive."http://www.thedaonline.com/