Achieving Zero Hepatitis by 2030
In 2016, the World Health Assembly adopted the global health strategy on viral hepatitis to eliminate hepatitis by 2030. Since its adoption, activities have been scaled up in all member countries towards achieving this goal.
Hepatitis control strategies adopted include the introduction of HBV vaccination which ensures that infants receive three doses in the first year of life, prevention of mother to child transmission of HBV, ensuring the safety of blood in case of transfusion and increased testing as well as treatment.
Despite these strategies, the number of people with hepatitis is still high.
It is estimated that over three hundred million people worldwide are living with viral hepatitis while about 1.3million deaths occur yearly. In Nigeria, the prevalence of hepatitis B is about eleven percent of the population, meaning that up to two hundred thousand Nigerians are infected.
Experts say people with untreated hepatitis are at risk of developing liver diseases like cirrhosis and even cancer. They could also easily infect others with it. Moreover, nonchalant lifestyles such as sharing of razor blades, clippers and body scarification such as tattooing could expose people to hepatitis B as well as transmission from mother to child.
Time had come therefore for individuals to take their health seriously by avoiding all modes of transmission. It is also important to avoid indiscriminate use of drugs while pregnant women must make it a point of duty to know their status and do the needful.
It is heartwarming that the House Committee on Health has pledged its commitment towards eliminating hepatitis by 2030. The success recorded in the fight against immunodeficiency virus, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis were mainly due to support from donor agencies. If these agencies give same support to hepatitis elimination, the rate at which people die from liver-related diseases would be greatly reduced.
Therefore, there must be increased funding from government. civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, well-meaning Nigerians and corporate organisations should extend helping hands.
It is imperative to strengthen health care delivery systems and the primary health care centre across the country. Close monitoring of traditional birth attendants, mission houses and other unrecognized birth outlets is necessary to ensure that babies get the first shot of HBV at birth and subsequent ones.
Most importantly, there should be increased capacity for testing of hepatitis B and C especially in the rural areas while treatment drugs and vaccines be subsidised for low income Nigerians to gain access.