List Hepatitis B On Services Covered By NHIS – Afenyo-Markin To Govt

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Alexander Kwamena Afenyo Markin
Alexander Kwamena Afenyo Markin

Deputy Majority Leader and Member of Parliament (MP) for Effutu, Alexander Kwamena Afenyo-Markin has indicated that testing, vaccination and treatment of Hepatitis B should be listed as part of the health services covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

According to him, Hepatitis B is a significant public health crisis in Ghana and called for an urgent scaling up of efforts nationwide to defeat the virus within our borders.

He made this call on the floor of Parliament on February 14, 2023, where he called for the testing and treatment of hepatitis b and related conditions to be made part of the health services covered by the national health insurance scheme.

According to him, figures published by the Hepatitis B Foundation, show that two billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus across the world and nearly 1.5 million people become newly infected every year.

“An estimated 820,000 people died in 2019 from liver cancer induced by hepatitis B. It is further estimated that approximately two people die each minute from hepatitis B – this translates to 1 person every 30 seconds.”

Afenyo-Markin averred that the situation in Ghana is equally dire as in his constituency, a survey he commissioned in 2019 showed the prevalence rate of the virus at 8.5 per cent.

This situation, according to him is not only unfortunate but troubling. “Indeed, the problem around the country is equally frightening. It is estimated that the national prevalence of chronic Hepatitis B Virus stood somewhere between 8.36% (in 2020) and 12.30% (in 2016). On the whole, some 3 to 4.6 million people are said to be suffering from chronic Hepatitis B infection in Ghana.”

Speaking on the prevention of the disease, the Honourable MP explained that the WHO recommends that all infants receive the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, “preferably within 24 hours, followed by 2 or 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine at least [four] weeks apart to complete the vaccination series.

WHO he also said, recommends the use of antiviral prophylaxis for the prevention of Hepatitis B transmission from mother to child whilst countries implement blood safety strategies and safer sex practices.

He noted that the scale of the burden imposed by the prevalence rate of the Hepatitis B virus in Ghana is daunting and that it is possible to confront the problem and defeat it.

“Indeed, there is a huge chance that if we act NOW, we can save many of our compatriots from the jaws of the virus. Permit me, therefore, Mr Speaker, to propose three urgent measures to tame the virus.”

He called on government to prioritise and scale up Hepatitis B elimination prevention, testing and treatment programs to ensure that no one is left behind.

“Also, up to 90% of Ghana’s newborns may end up being infected at some point. The reason is that infected pregnant women who are actively incubating the virus have a 90% chance of transmitting it to the newborn.”

According to him, the global response to the Hepatitis B burden started in an organised and intense fashion in 2016 when Ghana appears to be late or needs to do more to fight and defeat the virus.

The time to act meaningfully and decisively, he said, is NOW, stressing that Ghana has the rare opportunity to eliminate the virus, considered the second deadliest and most infectious, in the world, and avert millions of deaths by 2030.

In view of these, he challenged Parliament to speak with one voice and demand that the State of Ghana launch a robust program which takes on board some or all of the preceding proposals to help us save lives.

He said: “We must confront the virus head-on and defeat it. We have a lot to do to win against such a deadly infection. However, we will take a giant step in the right direction if we decide today to do the things I have proposed. Indeed, without a concerted effort by the Government, partners, citizens, and all other stakeholders within the health, social welfare and security spaces, our country will most likely miss the 2030 deadline to eliminate the virus.”

He also persuade the Speaker of Parliament to refer his statement to a joint committee on Health, Finance and Social Welfare to consider and recommend to Parliament the most viable means by which the NHIS can bear the cost of testing, vaccination and treatment of Hepatitis B cases in the long term without crippling the seemingly already overburdened scheme.

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