The Ministry of Health has urged Ugandans to get tested, vaccinated, and seek early medical care for those who test positive for Hepatitis. Today is World Hepatitis Day.
This year’s theme is ‘I can’t wait. Bringing Hepatitis care closer to you.
The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Diana Atwine said Hepatitis is the leading cause of lung cancer, and getting tested is the best way to protect oneself.
“Testing for Hepatitis is available at all health centers 11, health center IV, general, regional, and national referrals hospitals for free,” she added.
Hepatitis is an inflammation or injury to the liver, which eventually leads to severe liver disease and liver cancer.
In a joint press release in Thursday’s NewVision, the ministry’s top management committed to the call of this year’s theme that calls for urgent efforts to bring Hepatitis prevention by ensuring every community across the country has to access these services.
“Although at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic there were challenges of limited access to viral Hepatitis testing and treatment, we commit to strengthen access points for diagnosis and treatment from the health center 11 levels to regional referral hospitals,” they noted.
In 2015, the government declared viral hepatitis a public threat, and intervention aimed at reducing the disease burden commenced. Key of these were mass testing and vaccination campaign for adolescents and adults.
Through this campaign, close to 40% of them were tested, with at least 90% of those who tested negative vaccinated with the first dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine.
However, the ministry insists that while deaths from tuberculosis and HIV have been declining, deaths from Hepatitis are increasing. The world today continues to witness over 1 million deaths due to viral hepatitis B and C.
Remember, although they are five types of viral hepatitis; A, B, C, D, and E, hepatitis B and C are responsible for the chronic infection that eventually leads to liver cancer and liver failure, accounting for nearly 95% of deaths.
The ministry indicated that the prevalence of Hepatitis B infection among adults in Uganda still remains high at 4.1% with the Northern and Teso sub-regions reporting a prevalence as high as 4.6%.
With the effect of their re-commitment, the government plans to introduce Hepatitis B birth vaccination dose to all public health facilities in the next four months to control it among children, the manager, of Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization, Dr. Alfred Driwale, said.
“A decision has been taken for the Hepatitis B birth dose vaccination to be introduced in the course of the year (2022) to all newborn babies, regardless of whether they are born with Hepatitis B-positive or negative mothers,” he noted.
Dr. Dwiwale further stated that the introduction of the Hepatitis B birth dose is critical as a strategy to reduce the prevalence among children, which currently stands at 0.6% according to the UPHIA survey conducted in 2016.
This simply means that there are still a number of children who are infected with Hepatitis B and therefore, require protection.
The Hepatitis B birth dose is given at birth or within the first 24 hours following birth, according to WHO guidelines.
The World Health organization (WHO) has set targets to eliminate viral hepatitis in the world by 2030.
The special targets include; reducing new infections of Hepatitis B and C by 90%, and reducing hepatitis-related deaths from liver cirrhosis and cancer by 65%.
It further aims at ensuring that at least 90% of people with Hepatitis B and C viruses are diagnosed, and at least 80% of those eligible receive appropriate treatment.
The health management mentioned that much as the country has continued to make significant strides to achieve the set targets, there is a need to scale up the services closer to the communities, thus the theme for this year.
“As countries continue to grapple with unexplained causes of acute hepatitis outbreaks among children under the age of 15, we must reconsider how to bring preventative and treatment to all types of hepatitis closer to the communities,” the ministry said.