Worried over the increasing cases of Viral Hepatitis in the country, former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) has called on the Federal and State government to urgently draw a national treatment programme that will address the the rising cases of Viral Hepatitis in the country.
Speaking while addressing a press conference to commemorate World Hepatitis day and launching of the National Directory on Viral Hepatitis Services in Abuja on Tuesday, Gowon insisted that the effective control of hepatitis was sorely dependent on the level of support from government.
He said that more fund is required to deal with health problem of the nation.
The Goodwill Ambassador for the Control of Viral Hepatitis while stressing the need for for increased access to Hepatitis testing and improved care for Hepatitis patients added that the launch of the directory would aid in reducing the incidence of viral hepatitis through an increased awareness on the infection, screening and avenues of support across the country.
“As we launch today the National Directory of Viral Hepatitis Services in Nigeria, we call on the federal government to utilise the ongoing Nigeria AIDS indicators and Impact Survey (NAIIS), to determine the viral hepatitis burden in Nigeria.
“The nation must bear in mind the saying that health is wealth and a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. The federal government should come up with a national treatment programme to tackle viral hepatitis” he added.
For his part, the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, while launching the Directory for Viral Hepatitis Services in Nigeria, said the directory will help improve access to care for people infected with Hepatitis as out of over 300 million people living with Viral Hepatitis globally, 90% of them do not know their status.
He added that the knowledge of Viral Hepatitis is low in Nigeria despite it being a leading cause of death.
Adewole while quoting the World Health Organization report of 2017, said that 22 million Nigerians are estimated to be infected with Hepatitis B while roughly 4 million people are infected with Hepatitis C.
Adewole said, “There are other sub-types of the Viral agents that are responsible for Hepatitis, such as Hepatitis A Virus and Hepatitis D Virus, while Hepatitis B and C are responsible for 96% of all mortality due to Viral Hepatitis. Nigeria has a prevalence of 11% for Hepatitis B and 2.2% for Hepatitis C respectively”
Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) country Representative Dr Wondi Alemu, in his address, lamented that about 323 million people infected with Hepatitis B or C virus worldwide which according to him is a burden 10 times larger than the HIV epidemic.
He said that over 1.4 million people die annually from liver disease caused by untreated infection of which two out of every three is 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” Alemu said.
He added that cost effective medicines are now available to control Hepatitis B infection and prevent liver disease while for Hepatitis C, the available medicines can cure the infection in almost all patients within 12 weeks.
Alemu reiterated WHO’s continued support to 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.
The theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day is “now is the time to Test, the time to Treat, and the time to Cure Hepatitis.