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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
FLORIDA: Duo Working to Reduce Cervical and Breast Cancer in Women from Miami's Little Haiti
Fred Tasker
January 6, 2012
Miami Herald (01.04.12) - Friday, January 06, 2012

The community group Partners in Action (PIA) works to fight high rates of cervical and breast cancer among women in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood. Five years ago, when the group was launched, many women there were not accessing preventive screening or medical care in time.

In 2007, three community health workers of Haitian descent, fluent in Creole and English, were hired to survey Little Haiti women. After intensive training in survey techniques, the workers administered a rapid, 15-item questionnaire to women in casual settings, such as laundries and grocery stores. Of 1,000 women approached, 94 percent agreed to participate.

Only 67 percent of the women over age 18 had ever gotten a Pap smear, and just 44 percent had one within the previous three years. Cultural barriers and the lack of easy testing access, money, and health insurance prevented the women from getting screened.

"A lot of them aren't qualified for Medicaid because they're not documented," said Marleine Bastien, founder of Haitian Women of Miami. Her group partnered with Dr. Erin Kobetz, of the University of Miami School of Medicine, and the UM South Florida Center for Reducing Cancer Disparities, to create PIA.

A subsequent survey found neighborhood women also were far less likely than other women to have heard about human papillomavirus and cervical cancer.

"We realized that even if we opened a free clinic where everyone could get a Pap smear, women weren't going to come," Kobetz said.

Now the team's health workers are offering women a self-sample collection kit for cervical cancer screening. It comes with a cartoon flip-chart that explains the need for testing and how to use the kit. The women can use the kit in private, while a health worker waits to send the sample to UM labs for testing. So far, 97 percent of women approached have agreed to test.