From Priscilla Ediare, Ado Ekiti
The President of the Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Nigeria (SOGHIN), Prof Jesse A Otegbayo, has appealed to the government, global health agencies and donors to embark on massive awareness to prevent more cases of Hepatitis among Nigerians so as to reduce the number of sufferers in the country.
He also called for funding of programmes and more measures to tame the rising tide of the life-threatening disease and alleviate the pains of those living with it, advising Nigerians to abstain from unhealthy lifestyles and practices that may make them susceptible to develop Hepatitis.
Prof Otegbayo, who is a Consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist with the University College Hospital Ibadan, Oyo State, and Chief Medical Director, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, made the call in Abuja, on Thursday, as Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the 2022 World
Hepatitis Day with the theme, ’ Bringing Hepatitis Care Closer to You”.
According to the SOGHIN president, July 28 was chosen to mark World Hepatitis Day because it is the birthday of Nobel prize-winning scientist, Dr Baruch Blumberg, who discovered the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and developed a diagnostic test and vaccine for the virus.
The medical expert pointed out that there are many ways of reducing the chances of getting hepatitis, namely getting the vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, using condoms during sex, not sharing needles to take drugs, screening blood before transfusion and practising good personal hygiene such as hand washing with soap and water.
According to him, “World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that more than 350 million people are still living with this life-threatening disease globally.
“The gains made have been uneven across the world, with those most impacted often least likely to benefit, and countries have failed to meet the GHSS 2022 targets.
“In Nigeria, an estimate of 20 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis B and C. Infection and
prevention control in health care settings needs further improvements, and harm reduction remains insufficiently scaled up and accessible. Only 10% and 21% of people know that they live with chronic Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C respectively, even fewer receive treatment, and liver cancer related to Hepatitis is on an exponential rise.”
The Society noted that multisectoral action, which recognises civil society as an integral partner, is taken to operationalize hepatitis programmes which promote integration, decentralization and task shifting to improve access.
“SOGHIN has developed guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis B and C in Nigeria. The Society also has been part of every initiative developed by the Federal Government of Nigeria in reducing the burden of the disease in the country,” Prof Otegbayo said.
We call on governments, global health agencies and donors to honour commitments already made and further commit to prioritising and funding comprehensive hepatitis programmes so that everyone, everywhere has access to affordable prevention, testing, treatment and care.
As a way of marking World Hepatitis Day 2022, members of the SOGHIN in all the 36 states of Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) will organize various activities such as health walks, carnivals, media engagements, screening for Hepatitis B and C, visit policymakers and vaccination.
“We call on the 350 million people living with viral hepatitis and their communities to unite, amplify their voices and take their place in the hepatitis response. Hepatitis Can’t Wait!”