Ambassador Kathleen Kavalec at the Fighting Cervical Cancer Roundtable

U.S. Ambassador to Romania Kathleen Kavalec delivers remarks at the Fighting Cervical Cancer Roundtable. Bucharest, March 2, 2023 (U.S. Embassy/Public Diplomacy Office)

Good morning,
Minister Rafila
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us here today. My Embassy team and I are very pleased to host this roundtable on what is clearly a needful and a critical conversation within both the medical and social sectors. In prior such roundtables, participants have often commented that it is a rare opportunity to gather and share ideas, and inspiration— and even frustrations—given obligations that we all have in our daily lives.

U.S. Ambassador to Romania Kathleen Kavalec delivers remarks at the at Fighting Cervical Cancer Roundtable. Bucharest, March 2, 2023 (U.S. Embassy/Public Diplomacy Office)

Early March brings a focus upon the women in our lives—mothers, daughters, spouses, sisters, friends…all of us. It encourages us to think also about our health, probably the greatest gift that we all have. In 2022, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden reignited the Cancer Moonshot with an ambitious, and achievable goal: reducing the death rate from cancer by at least 50% within the next 25 years, improving the experiences of people and families currently living with and surviving cancer, and ending cancer as we know it today. As part of the Cancer Moonshot the Department of Health and Human Services is committed to accelerating efforts to nearly eliminate cervical cancer through screening and HPV vaccination, with a particular focus on reaching people who are most at risk.

The United States knows that we have in Romania an incredible Ally and friend. And friends of course wish only for the best for one another. Thus, I was pained when I learned recently that Romania’s cancer mortality is far above the EU average, and that it has increased for six cancer types since 2000. Moreover, the incidences of cervical cancer in this nation, and mortality therefrom, are the highest in the EU. So timely and well-funded screening programs such as HPV awareness efforts can readily help, as can vaccination campaigns. It is my understanding that despite the best efforts of the government, rates of HPV vaccination remain low here and that young women and those with weakened immune systems are unnecessarily at risk. And I realize it’s a challenge these days with the disinformation that is circulating about vaccination, but I think this means that we have to redouble our efforts.

I commend you all for caring, for convening, and for having the conversations needed to try to remedy this situation. No person, no entity, and no sector can handle a challenge alone and in forums such as this one we see what synergy among the private sector, the public sector, and civil society can generate. The dedication and caring of organizations such as Fundatia Renasterea are as self-evident as they are critical for community health. We applaud all you do for your country in this regard. You are building a stronger and healthier Romania, and your efforts on behalf of women and the young will continue to benefit everyone for decades to come. I know you also do the Race for the Cure, I’ve done that recently in Bosnia and I hope I will have the chance to participate in that as well here.

Likewise, there is no substitute for the expertise that companies such as MSD can bring to communities throughout Romania. Ensuring readily available cervical cancer screening, availability of HPV vaccination, and the information needed to remove the fear, stigma, and uncertainty is critically important. I hope your efforts and information on display and shared here today will help fill the remaining gaps in both access and information. Private sector commitment has been pivotal to delivering outcomes, and I commend MSD for its efforts and for making women’s health a long-term priority.

I would be remiss today if I not to acknowledge the dedication of the public sector as well—Minister of Health Rafila your dedication to your national well-being is admirable and appreciated I think by everyone. From the public health professionals and medical staff to NGO representatives who make it their mission to advocate for women’s health, to the public leadership with us here today who can readily reach Romanian women, you are all equally important stakeholders and you all can and are making a positive difference. Thank you so much for what you do.

Before I close, let me just say cancer touches all of us. I lost my mother last year to cancer. I know many of us have family members who have suffered or have even passed away from cancer. So I think the Moonshot idea is something we can all get behind and hopefully will take us forward both in the United States, in Romania and everywhere in the world.

Let me close by wishing you every success and remind all listening that prevention, like any other healthcare expenditure, should not be seen as a cost but actually it’s investment and a way to save costs later on and give us a more robust and thriving nation and people. So, thank you for being here today, for inviting me to join you and I look forward to the conference and to collaborating in the future.

Thank you.