Malawi government will on July 28, this year join the world in commemorating the World Hepatitis Day with an aim of raising awareness of the global burden of hepatitis and to influence action.
The day is designed to build and leverage political engagement following official endorsement of the Global Health Sector on viral hepatitis at the world health assembly 2016, showcase emerging national response to hepatitis in heavy burden and highlight the need for a greater global response as outlined in the World Health Organization (WHO’s) Global Hepatitis Report of 2017.
Secretary for Ministry of Health Dr. Dan Namarika said viral hepatitis is an international public health challenge, comparable to other major communicable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
“It is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million. Viral hepatitis is also a growing cause of mortality among people living with HIV,” Namarika said.
He said although the exact burden of viral hepatitis is unknown in the country, a rapid assessment on viral hepatitis in Malawi conducted by WHO in 2005 at Kamuzu Central Hospital showed that the prevalence of Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV) was 15 and 1.5 percent respectively.
Namarika said, “It is therefore critical that the Ministry of Health establishes the burden of HBV and HCV by among other things, re-testing samples collected from population based HIV survey.”
He, however, said there is a need to create awareness and understanding of the disease and associated risk factors, investment in laboratory capacity to confirm and monitor treatment as well access to cheaper treatment.
Save Your Liver Foundation Malawi, Executive Director Dr. Davis Mtotha said his organization is aware that treatment costs of hepatitis are very expensive and beyond to reach of many Malawians.
“We urge government to also explore the use of complementary medicines towards the prevention and treatment of hepatitis.
“We have noted that the Ministry of Health has taken this approach and it is our wish that the process of exploring such options must be hastened if we have to serve lives,” said Mtotha.
According to the official website of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) official website, HBV is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease and the virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.
HCV is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus and the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
This year’s hepatitis day will be commemorated under the theme is ‘eliminate hepatitis’ and the event will take place in Chikwawa this coming Saturday.
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