Feet on the Ground

“I’d Rather Have AIDS Than Cancer”

01 May 2010

An unimaginable sentence, and yet one that I heard throughout conversations with cancer patients in Tanzania and Kenya.

Once thought of as a ‘rich world’ disease, cancer is a looming public health catastrophe across east Africa and the developing world. Rates of incidence of the disease are rising in low- and middle-income countries. People lack access to information on how to identify early signs of different cancers. Those who do seek treatment typically have few options. Medication is expensive. Facilities are few and overcrowded. Compounding the challenge are the many stigmas attached to the disease.

A patient diagnosed with cervical cancer in Kenyatta National Hospital told me, “With HIV/AIDS, at least I know I have a fighting chance. The antiretrovirals are inexpensive and readily available, and people can live with the disease. With cancer, we just don’t know how to cope.”

This week, this page will explore the challenge of cancer in east Africa by offering a profile of the IAEA’s work to fight the disease. Thanks for reading.