Scale up Hepatitis B testing in Ghana

Health Hepatitis Summit
Health Hepatitis Summit

Dr Atsu Saeke-Kwaku, Programme Manager, National Viral Hepatitis Programme, Ghana Health Service, has called for a scale-up of Hepatitis B and C testing as the disease prevalence keeps increasing in the country.

He said Ghana had a high prevalence rate of eight per cent of hepatitis B and C, which means that the country was hyper-endemic being driven by mother-to-child transmission.

So, we must address this inter-generational transmission to be able to impact the prevalence of the disease to reduce the prevalence rate, he said.

Dr Saeke-Kwaku made the call at the opening of the third national hepatitis summit organized by the Hepatitis Alliance of Ghana (HAG), a non-governmental organisation in Accra.

The two-day summit is on the theme: “Making Elimination of Viral Hepatitis a Reality in Ghana”.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Alcohol consumption, several health conditions, and some medications can all cause this condition. However, viral infections are the most common cause of hepatitis.

The five main viral classifications of hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. A different virus is responsible for each type of viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis B and C are the most common of the condition and result in 1.1 million deaths and 3 million new infections per year, she stated.

According to a 2019 World Health Organisation (WHO) global report, 296 million people live with chronic hepatitis B infection, 58 million persons live with hepatitis C, and 1.5 million new infections each year, with 820,000 hepatitis B-related deaths.

The Programme Manager said it was therefore important that pregnant women particularly screen for hepatitis B (hep B) to know their status.

He said babies born to a mother with hepatitis B had a higher chance of developing chronic hepatitis B if not properly treated at birth.

Dr Seake-Kwaku, speaking on “The country’s response to the burden of hepatitis: lessons from a Stop Hepatitis C Ghana treatment project,” said Ghana was making progress and would gradually win the fight against hepatitis.

Dr Seake-Kwawu said that although they all affected the liver and showed similar presentations, they were addressed differently.

He said some milestones had been chalked in response to containing the spread of the disease in the country, including the “STOP HepC Ghana Project”, a nationwide hepatitis C patient recruitment, and the fact that Egypt had agreed to support Ghana with 150,000 courses of medications for hepatitis C, Sofosbuvir and Daclatasvir which would be sufficient for the complete treatment of the initial 50,000 cases.

Dr Charles Ampong Adjei, the Executive Director, Hepatitis Alliance, said the summit brought together healthcare professionals, researchers, academicians, civil society organizations, policymakers, and other key stakeholders to discuss potential strategies for achieving the global hepatitis target.

This year’s event provides a unique opportunity to share and learn more about viral hepatitis C to support the national hepatitis project “STOP HEP C GHANA” which aims to provide free treatment for 50,000 individuals.

The “STOP HEP C GHANA” initiative is one of the key strategies to train as many healthcare professionals as possible to recruit eligible patients to benefit from the project.

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