By Chioma Obinna
With about 20 million Nigerians chronically infected with hepatitis B and C, medical laboratory scientists have said that ending viral hepatitis epidemics as a major public health threat was feasible with the right tools, funding and implementation commitments.
The Laboratory scientists who spoke in Lagos lamented that hepatitis has been largely ignored as a health and development priority compared to malaria and HIV, until recently.
In the views of Professor Kolawole Oyedeji of the Department of Medical Laboratory Science, College of Medicine, Idi-Araba, Lagos, the World Health Organisation’s, WHO, Global Health Sector Strategy sets actions and targets to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030 by reducing new infections and deaths by 90 per cent and 65 per cent, respectively.
In his lecture titled: “Evolving Health Systems Management and Hepatitis infections: The Role of HealthCare providers”, Oyedeji disclosed that the 2020 WHO report showed that about 2.3 billion people worldwide are infected with one or more of the hepatitis viruses, about 2.9 million people living with HIV are co-infected with hepatitis C virus and 2.6 million with hepatitis B virus.
He further noted that in Nigeria, about 20 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B and C while Viral hepatitis results in around 1.4 million deaths globally, each year and HBV and HCV are responsible for about 90 per cent of fatalities, whilst the remaining 10 per cent of fatalities are caused by other hepatitis viruses.
Delivering his paper at the event organised by the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, Surulere Chapter, Oyedeji said Nigeria can leverage its health systems management structure and evolving global health strategies to achieve the WHO eradication plan for hepatitis viruses by 2030.
He said the government should ensure that adequate funding is available and the right financial incentives are in place to guarantee that all individuals have access to needed preventive and personal health care in the management and control of viral Hepatitis.
Speaking, the Chairman, AMLSN, Surulere Chapter, Mr Obongama Edet who stressed the theme of the year: “Achieving Elimination of Viral Hepatitis with Evolving Health System” was apt to lament poor testing for hepatitis in Nigeria.
Stating that their theme highlights the evolving health systems and how it impacts hepatitis infections, testing and treatment as well as the role of healthcare providers in the elimination of the infections, he said Nigeria has not had enough data but studies have shown that quite a several Nigerians are suffering from the disease.
Calling on the Federal government to invest in vaccine production, he said it was time to revamp the country’s moribund vaccine laboratory in Lagos to provide Nigerians with vaccines for the disease and other vaccine-related infections.
Edit called on Nigerians to go for testing for hepatitis, stressing that government should improve access to testing for hepatitis at the various government-owned health facilities.
He warned that hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver and can lead to cancer and even death. “It kills much more than HIV/AIDS.”.