Introduction: Detection of high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) is the most sensitive test for the screening of cervical cancer. Although most high-income countries have adopted this strategy in their screening programme, there are a lot of barriers in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) in setting up this facility for screening. The lessons learned based on this experience can be useful for other LMICs in their first steps to integrate HPV testing into a screening programme.
Methods: HPV testing using self-sampling was offered to eligible women residing in one district of Sikkim state. To implement the same, a testing laboratory was set up in the district and the challenges faced are listed.
Results: The cost of testing equipment, sampler and cold storage was beyond the budget capping. Setting up of the HPV testing lab accessible to study sites and referral centre was a difficult decision to make. Training the health care providers in their proficiency in triaging and treatment was challenging. Coordinating with community health workers and beneficiaries for effective screening and establishing referral linkages was not easy, as we expected. The cost of transportation, consumables and contingencies was higher due to the difficult terrain.
Conclusion: The cost of the equipment and consumables for primary HPV screening can be reduced in bulk purchases through negotiations. Adequate knowledge of the terrain and economic implications of the area of interest is crucial during the budgeting of the programme. Collaborating with the state government, integration with the existing health system and repurposing the available resources are key for success. The barriers faced during implementation are stepping stones for improvement.