The Federal Government has launched a National Directory for Viral Hepatitis Services in Nigeria.
The National Directory informs the general public , health and human services providers about available viral hepatitis services in the country.
The directory provides information about a range of services including,how to access prevention information,
where to get vaccinated, where testing is available, which doctors or clinics provide medical care for people living with viral hepatitis and how to locate support services for people living with viral hepatitis.
At the launch in Abuja,and media briefing to mark this year’s World Hepatitis day with the theme, “Test. Treat. Hepatitis” the Minister of health,Professor Isaac Adewole said the National Directory also Included basic information about viral hepatitis
Adewole said about 22 million Nigerians are estimated to be infected with Hepatitis B while roughly 4 million are infected with Hepatitis C.
According to Professor Adewole Hepatitis is simply an inflammation of the tissues of the liver. Some of the common symptoms include poor appetite, tiredness, vomiting, yellow discoloration of the skin and the white portion of the eye to mention but a few.
“It is estimated that about 300 million people are living with viral hepatitis. Most of them may not be aware of this and so we need regular diagnosis to reduce the burden and deaths due to Hepatitis.”
“Viral Hepatitis is a global infectious disease and worldwide, one in every twelve persons is estimated to be living with the infection. This translates to approximately 292 million people who are actively infected with Hepatitis B virus while 71 million are actively infected with Hepatitis C virus. It is very disheartening that globally, an estimated 1.8 million children under five (5) years have Hepatitis B infection despite the availability of a potent vaccine that could be used to protect children against the virus.”he said.
The Minister said Hepatitis B and C are responsible for 96% of all mortality due to Viral Hepatitis while Nigeria has a prevalence of 11% for Hepatitis B and 2.2% for Hepatitis C respectively .
Adewole observed that cases of Viral Hepatitis are more common amongst people between the ages of 21 and 40 years.
“The risk factors include local circumcision, local uvelectomy, and scarifications on the body. Other predisposing factors include surgical procedures, deliveries that occur at home and blood transfusion to mention a few. May I inform you that, our target is to eliminate Viral Hepatitis by the year 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
He said the Ministry had been working with Partners and Pharmaceutical companies to facilitate the provision of anti-viral drugs for the management of Hepatitis B and the treatment of Hepatitis C at the lowest possible price.
“The Ministry recently signed an MOU with Gilead Pharmaceutical to provide drugs for the treatment and cure for Hepatitis C and we will continue to significantly scale up over the next 12 months.”
“We must all know our status. Everyone must go to the nearby facility and get screened; it takes less than 15 minutes to do this. Save your Liver Today!”
In a message to the occasion the WHO Representative to Nigeria, Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu,, presented by Dr. Rex Mpazanje said cost effective medicines are now available to control hepatitis B infection and prevent liver disease.
“For Hepatitis C, the available medicines can cure the infection in almost all patients within 12 weeks. There is also Hepatitis B vaccine given at birth, together with infant vaccination, that prevents over 95% of new infections.
” The theme for this year’s event is “Test. Treat. Hepatitis” and is aimed at raise awareness to hepatitis B and C virus infections, the long term (chronic) inflammation of the liver and resultant extensive scarring, liver cancer and untimely death that these infections cause as well as the importance of testing and accessing treatment early.
“Worldwide, there are 323 million people infected with Hepatitis B or C virus, a burden 10 times larger than the HIV epidemic. Over 1.4 million people die annually from liver disease caused by untreated infection and this includes two out of every three liver cancer deaths.”
“In Africa, hepatitis B and C is a silent epidemic affecting over 70 million people. Among infected persons, 9 out of every 10 have never been tested because of lack of awareness and poor access to testing and treatment.”
He said WHO would continue to support Nigeria to walk the path of making more simplified hepatitis B and C diagnostic and treatment services available, accessible and affordable towards a vision of Africa free of viral hepatitis by 2030.
On his part a former Head of State and elder statesman,General Yakubu Gowon said knowledge of Viral Hepatitis remained low, although it was a leading cause of death among Nigerians.
He called for upward review of annual budgetary allocation by the federal and state governments to a bench mark that could reduce the burden of viral hepatitis in the country.
“I therefore plead and urge the federal and all state governments to seriously give consideration to an upward review to the annual budgetary allocation to the federal and state ministries of health to a bench mark that can reduce the burden of viral hepatitis and inclusion of Hepatitis treatment coverage into the national health insurance scheme (NHIS) to improve the quality and access to medical facilities across the country.
As we launch today the national directory for viral hepatitis services in Nigeria, we call on the federal government to utilise the ongoing Nigeria AIDS indicators and Impact Survey NAIIS to determine viral hepatitis burden in Nigeria.”he added.