The Government will spend $53 million on developing and rolling out a new HPV self-testing kit – a move that is expected to save 138 lives which would have otherwise been claimed by cervical cancer.
The money will help complete the design of - and implement - a new human papillomavirus (HPV) test, Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said this morning.
HPV is the cause of 99 per cent of cervical cancer and Verrall said the new self-testing kit will make a "real difference".
The new test, which will replace the current smear test, is a simple and quick swab that women can choose to do themselves.
"This will help to reduce the barriers to getting screened," Verrall said.
The announcement will come as welcome news to advocates, who have been calling for the Government to fund self-testing kits for some time.
Verrall said initial modelling predicted the move to HPV screenings would prevent about 400 cervical cancers over 17 years.
"It will save around 138 lives," Verrall told reporters this morning, adding that a third of those cases prevented and lives saved would be Māori, Verrall said.
The change will come into effect in 2023.
The funding comes after Cabinet Minister Kiri Allan last month revealed she has cervical cancer and has just a 13 per cent chance of survival.
Verrall said she spoke to Allan about the announcement last night: "She's just so excited about the change."
She said the Government had been working on the programme for "a long time".
"I've been a doctor for a long time and met many, many women affected by cervical and breast cancer. I think today's announcement is for all of them."
In addition to the new HPV test, the Government also announced that almost 300,000 extra women will be eligible for potentially life-saving free breast scans because of a $55 million upgrade of the Government's aged IT systems.
The funding is part of this month's Budget and is one of the first funding initiatives to be announced.
It will come as welcome news to advocates, who have been pushing the Government to expand the number of women who get the free scan.
The money for the new IT system will help proactivity identify and enrol eligible women into the Government's free mammography screening programme.
The existing system operates as an "opt-in" model, whereby women choose to enrol for breast screening via their GP or by calling a 0800 number.