Researchers explore reaching rural communities with mobile HPV self-testing

Researchers from Te Tātai Hauora o Hine went mobile on Waitangi Weekend, offering cervical screening with HPV self-testing on board a bus as part of a charity event held in the rural community of Moa Flat.

Five of the cervical screening team posing with their back facing the camera. Their t-shirts say ask me about hpv self-testing.
The cervical screening team at the Shear 4 a Cause event.

The research team from Te Tātai Hauora o Hine have been investigating the acceptability and implementation of HPV self-testing for the prevention of cervical cancer, particularly for under-screened wāhine Māori, for several years.

Professor Bev Lawton, Director of Te Tātai Hauora o Hine, was on the bus at the Shear 4 a Cause event in Moa Flat, Otago.

“Women at the event could take their own test that we then analysed with on-the-spot mobile technology,” she says.

"Those women who tested positive were offered colposcopy on the bus by the Woman’s Health Bus team.”

Professor Lawton said it was a great event to be invited to be involved in.

“Wāhine benefited from this test-to-treatment approach. We hope to understand how we can improve access to HPV screening and colposcopy in outreach environments. Hopefully this approach can be offered in other areas in the future.”

The National Screening Unit is set to upgrade to HPV testing (with a self-test option) in July 2023, which Professor Lawton says is an exciting scientific move forward.

“Testing for HPV is better than the smear, it prevents more cancer, and you can do it yourself.”

The Woman’s Health Bus is a mobile health service that travels around Southland and Otago to provide contraception, sexual health, gynaecology, and colposcopy services to rural communities.

People who were due or overdue to have a cervical screen or have never had a cervical screen and over 25 years old were eligible. They also had an opportunity to share their experience of screening and what they want in the new programme by sitting down with a wāhine Māori qualitative interviewer.

This occurred at the time a new campaign launched calling for the new HPV cervical screening programme to be fully funded by the Government, which the Centre team and other researchers have endorsed. See the online petition for more information.