In 1997 Dr. Miriam Cremer was a medical student doing a rotation in a small town in rural El Salvador. She was there to provide basic medical care. During her work, she met a young woman in the community who eventually bled to death in her home of cervical cancer. It was an awful event that had a profound effect on Dr. Cremer.
The women of this town had survived a civil war and were too strong to die from a disease that was so simple to prevent. She began efforts to get them all screened, transporting their pap tests to the U.S. in her suitcase to be analyzed. She started working to help this one community. The path toward preventing cervical cancer globally appeared along the way.
She had resolved to help her friends, and once she did she saw that there were more women to help.
In 2005, Dr. Cremer founded Basic Health International, a non-profit organization whose mission is to eradicate cervical cancer. They do this by using low-cost, low-tech prevention tools to screen and treat women who are at highest risk of developing cancer. In October 2012 BHI launched a pilot program in El Salvador that has already screened 2,000 women and will reach 30,000 over the next 3 years. The HPV test being used is the highest quality, lowest-cost test available.
This is the largest pilot program in history with HPV screening technology developed specifically for the developing world.
It is the only project of its kind and one with real potential to reach into the recesses of the developing world, where women are most vulnerable. BHI is implementing the first HPV-screening device designed for use in areas with no running water or electricity on an unprecedented scale. Dr. Cremer’s project in El Salvador will provide the blueprint for cervical cancer prevention in developing countries everywhere.
The lessons learned from this project will be the foundation to eradicating cervical worldwide.