Increasing understanding of and care for viral hepatitis in Nigeria

Date:

Increasing understanding of and care for viral hepatitis in Nigeria

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Tuesday, February 07, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • However, more than 90% of Africans who have hepatitis B and C do not receive the necessary care.

  • Hepatitis is a disease that affects more than 90 million individuals worldwide or 26% of the population.

  • In each of the five main intervention areas—vaccination, preventing mother-to-child transmission, blood and injection safety, harm reduction, and testing and treatment for hepatitis B and C—which assisted the nation in establishing policy and guideline papers.

  • Hepatitis C is treatable in Nigeria but is relatively expensive, costing roughly 510 000 nairas ($1167) for a three-month supply.

  • Dr. Ikpeazu agrees with Bamidele’s worry.

On the eve of beginning a new job and four months before her wedding, Dada Titilope went in for a routine medical checkup. The 36-year-old inhabitant of Ile-Ife Osun State in southwest Nigeria found out she had hepatitis B at that point.

Titilope recalls the horrors she read about the sickness online and says, “I was terrified. “I believed it to be a death warrant.”

She gave the wedding a second thought. Her fiance and family, though, wouldn’t have any of it and instead urged her to concentrate on maintaining her health.

She remembers that “the doctors were able to calm me down.” “I had to get started on treatment right away.”

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is now curable, while hepatitis B infection (HBV) is preventative and treated. However, more than 90% of Africans who have hepatitis B and C do not receive the necessary care.

Hepatitis is a secret pandemic across Africa, particularly in Nigeria. Hepatitis is a disease that affects more than 90 million individuals worldwide or 26% of the population. The Nigeria HIV-AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey, 2018 found that among adults in Nigeria aged 15 to 64, HBV and HCV prevalence rates were 8.1 and 1.1%, respectively (NAIIS 2018). More than 20 million people in the US have hepatitis B, C, or both; nevertheless, some estimates suggest that more than 80% of those with the illness are unaware of their condition.

The head of gastroenterology at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, where Dada’s diagnosis was confirmed, Professor Dennis Ndububa, claims that most patients have a false perception of the disease and that what they know is frequently only negative. He claims many patients unintentionally learn of their condition when given blood or getting screened for other illnesses.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been helping the Government of Nigeria with its national hepatitis response to raise awareness and enhance detection and treatment.

“One of the things we want to do differently in the future is to attempt to emulate the kind of broad awareness campaign we have for HIV, and we know the results: a lot more people are aware of their status. People receiving treatments have increased. Therefore, we’re using what we learned from the HIV programme to the fight against hepatitis, says Dr. Akudo Ikpeazu, coordinator of the Ministry of Health’s National AIDS and STI Control Program (NASCP).

In each of the five main intervention areas—vaccination, preventing mother-to-child transmission, blood and injection safety, harm reduction, and testing and treatment for hepatitis B and C—WHO assisted the nation in establishing policy and guideline papers.

According to WHO Country Representative Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, “Nigeria has created capacity for viral hepatitis response at all levels, including policies focused on basic health care and universal health coverage.”

All pregnant patients at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital undergo hepatitis B and C screenings. The Hepatitis B vaccine is a component of children’s routine immunisation programmes nationally. Additionally, recommendations have been made regarding the automatic hepatitis screening of any patient receiving therapy for any reason.

Dr. Ikpeazu states, “Our objective is to have many more individuals… getting tested for hepatitis, understanding their status, and then taking the next step of utilising those already offered services.”

However, awareness is only one barrier. The price of medical care is another.

Bimelo Ogbe Solomon believes that a blood transfusion caused him to get hepatitis C. The 67-year-old Ife Osun native was diagnosed in 2000, and since then, he has had to deal not only with the disease’s excruciating symptoms but also with prescription shortages and expensive treatments.

Hepatitis C is treatable in Nigeria but is relatively expensive, costing roughly 510 000 nairas ($1167) for a three-month supply. “The medication has not been simple. For an elderly man like me, it has been relatively expensive to attempt to get the drugs. My kids have been fantastic in their support.

I want to implore the government to look into how hepatitis C treatment may be made freely available and treatable for Nigerians, the man continues.

Dr. Ikpeazu agrees with Bamidele’s worry. His team is in favour of making hepatitis treatment accessible, just like HIV therapy.

According to him, hepatitis B treatment can be incorporated into health insurance and the basic services offered by the primary health care provision funds. “The good news for hepatitis C is that it can be cured after three months, which reduces the duration and overall costs. There is reason to believe that more people will have access to therapies and that they will be more widely available.

Patients like Bamidele and Dada are still dependent on their friends and family for financial and emotional support.

Dada implores people to be immunised if their test results are negative. “However, if it is positive, remember that treatment is accessible. I’m quite pleased, leading a healthy lifestyle, expecting my first child, and progressing in my work. The world has not come to an end.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) – Nigeria.

APO has issued this Press Release. The content is not monitored by the editorial team of AUN News, and not of the content has been checked or validated by our editorial, proofreaders or fact-checkers. The issuer is solely responsible for the content of this announcement.

Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network

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