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World Hepatitis Day 2010

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THE United Nations Organisation (UN) has a policy of setting aside special days to raise awareness on issues that threaten the wellbeing of people around the world with a view to urging action on prevention and amelioration. One of these issues is the World Hepatitis Day, which falls due every May 19th.

This year’s theme is: Am I number 12? That was also the theme for 2009. The repetition of this theme is likened to themes of 2007 and 2008 which was: Get tested. All these point to the importance of people going to the nearest medical facility TODAY to find out if they have the Hepatitis B virus (or even Hepatitis C, which however, is said to be more prevalent in Asia ).

According to World Health Organisation sources, roughly about 2 billion people in the world are at the risk of the Hepatitis virus, and about 170 million people have either Hepatitis B or C, approximately about 1 in every 12 persons, which is why the theme: Am I number 12? was coined last year. If left untreated, Hepatitis B or C can lead to advanced liver damage called cirrhosis or liver cancer or liver failure and death, which is the ultimate fate of about 1.5 million people every year worldwide.

Hepatitis B or C bears resemblance to the dreaded HIV/AIDS in many ways. It is a viral infection that is spread through body contact and fluid exchange. Therefore, health authorities warn that it can be contacted through unprotected sexual activities. It can spread through the family and can be transmitted from a pregnant mother to the foetus in the womb.

It can live in the body for some time without the carrier showing any signs of pathology. By the time it begins to manifest in form of disease, the chances are very good that it would have reached an advanced or chronic stage of liver destruction and then there is little that medical professionals can do for the patient. This telltale resemblance to the HIV/AIDS scourge is responsible for the stigma that some people attach to persons suffering from Hepatitis B which, as in the case of HIV/AIDS, is absolutely unhelpful and uncalled for.

The good news about Hepatitis B or C is that unlike HIV/AIDS, there is a vaccine which can be administered upon those who have not yet contracted it. The vaccine is readily available and given free-of-charge to all persons of all ages in government health institutions and at very little cost in private hospitals. A Hepatitis B test takes only a few minutes and the result is out. It is, therefore, imperative that everyone should hasten to the nearest clinic and get tested. Those who are negative should immediately ask to be vaccinated. Those who are positive should have their system, especially the liver, checked for the level of viral load, and those who have not yet developed serious damage to their livers can be placed on treatment to ensure they live longer.

There has been an upsurge in the number of people suffering from liver-related cancers, and most of them were victims of untreated and undetected Hepatitis B or C. Death by Hepatitis B or C is preventable. But a lot of people have suffered avoidable painful death. Hepatitis B or C is second to tobacco as the cause of preventable liver cancers. The only sensible favour you can do yourself is to go and check yourself today.

There is a need for the media to raise the urgency of this danger and create awareness among the people, drawing their attention to the fact that Hepatitis B or C is as dangerous as the HIV/AIDS. Government information organs and the non-governmental social advocacy groups (NGO’s) should join hands in getting the people to know the danger that this scourge presents to enable them take action.

Don’t be Number 12. Get tested today.

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