World Hepatitis Day: 18,429 test positive to hepatitis in Nasarawa – Commissioner

From Esther Akaa, Lafia 

Nasarawa State government  says about 18,429 persons have tested positive to hepatitis in the state.

The state Commissioner for  Health, Pharm. Ahmed Yahaya  stated this on Thursday at a press briefing held in commemoration of the 2022 World Hepatitis Day in Lafia.

According to him, a total of 181, 946 persons have so far been screened as part of implementation of a five-year strategic plan with a target of treating 124,000 persons in line with the Nasarawa Economic  Development Strategy (NEDS), targeted at improving human capacity development.

He further stated that out of the figure, 4,160 have been assessed for viraemia while  2,451 have been found viracmic and placed on treatment.

“The World Hepatitis Day, is a day set aside by the World Health Organization (WHO) to recognize viral Hepatitis as a global Public Health Challenge. It is commemorated every 28th day of July, in order to increase the visibility of this disease and attract more resources for the battle against it, as well as to bring succour to the people affected by viral hepatitis, whilst aiming to curb its spread.

“The burden of viral hepatitis, particularly Hepatitis B (HBV) & Hepatitis C (HCV): The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 296 million people worldwide are living with Hepatitis B, while about 58 million people worldwide are living with Hepatitis C (WHO, 2019).

“In Africa, it is estimated that about 15-60% of normal population are living with either HBV or HCV, while the National burden for HBV & HCV stands at 8.1% & 1.1% respectively (NATIS. 2018). The Nasarawa State burden stood at about 16% & 13.2%o zero-prevalence for HBV & HCV respectively.

“Nasarawa State clearly exhibits a disproportionately high prevalence of Hepatitis B & C as compared to the national average. It is the high burden of this dreaded disease in the state that led the Nasarawa State Ministry of Health with support from Clinton Health Access Initiative established the State’s Viral Hepatitis Control Program (SVHCP) creating an enabling policy environment to drive access to HBV/HCV diagnostic and treatment services,” Yahaya said.

Yahaya said the state has developed key policy frameworks  towards shifting the task of uncomplicated case management to trained general practitioners.

Other approach, according to the commissioner, include the institution of the Provider Initiated Testing and Counselling (PITC) strategy, diagnostics integration, providing ICV viral load confirmatory testing on GeneXpert devices, and commodity integration into facility Drug Revolving Fund (DRF).

He said the state has designated areas across the 13 local  government areas for mass community screening and called on residents to avail themselves to the screening.

“I call on the general public to avoid the use of unsterilised sharps, sharing of needles/syringes, and the transfusion of unscreened blood/blood products.

“Screen pregnant women during ANC to reduce mother to child transmission, improve vaccination, particularly birth-dose immunisation of newborns, screen/test the general population for early identification of the disease and prompt treatment is key. I, therefore, call on all and sundry to avail themselves of a testing opportunity today,” he said.

He, therefore, appealed to the media, to spread the hepatitis message widely, while emphasising on the adoption of preventive measures that will reduce the further spread of the disease.

The Voice reports that the theme for this year’s World Hepatitis Day is “Bringing Hepatitis Care Closer to You.”

In another development, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), Beacon Youth Initiative (BYI) has called on stakeholders to increase investment and funding towards the elimination of viral hepatitis by the year 2030.

Executive Director/Founder, BYI,  Mr Emmanuel Okolo made the call on Thursday at an awareness/sensitisation rally organised by the NGO in partnership with Nasarawa State Ministry of Health, SHECA Foundation, among other  partners.

According to him, governments and global funders were turning a blind eye to 1.1 million deaths each year, saying it was impacting negatively on communities.

“Nigeria have failed to meet their Global Health Sector Strategy 2020 targets and many babies still lack access to the Hepatitis B birth dose vaccine in the country,  with less than 10% receiving a timely vaccine.

“The gains made to eliminate hepatitis have been uneven across Nasarawa State, with those most impacted often the least likely to benefit.

“We will no longer accept excuses. It takes courage to speak out, but this World Hepatitis Day we come together globally to say ‘I can’t wait’ for an end to Hepatitis,” he stated.

Okolo urged policy makers, global funders, and decision makers to act by increasing investment in  hepatitis elimination.

The ED, therefore, said that his organisation, in partnership with the state Ministry of Health,  SHECA Foundation, Philips Pharmaceutical Nigeria Limited,  HorsePower Pharmaceutical Limited and CHAI was providing free Hepatitis B and C screening for 1000 beneficiaries.

He said that the awareness/sensitisation rally was to encourage the public to avail themselves to screening and  vaccination against Hepatitis B and C, in order to achieve its elimination by 2030.

Also speaking, Executive Director, SHECA Foundation, Princess Adepeju Ogunleye, called on the public to avail themselves for screening  and vaccinated against hepatitis at designated screening/ vaccination centres spread across the state.

“World Hepatitis Day is our day to raise awareness of viral hepatitis. We ask that the public get  involved in the ‘I Can’t Wait’ campaign whether it’s through social media, such as our ‘awareness relay’ or ‘screening’ vaccination, or signing our pledge to eliminate hepatitis by 2030.

“With a person dying every 30 seconds from a hepatitis related illness, we can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis. Get involved now,” she said.

The Voice reports that Viral Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus and theme for the 2022  World Hepatitis Day is ‘I Can’t Wait’.

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