Feature Article of Saturday, 2 February 2013
Columnist: Atakli, Alex
The old adage that death is inevitable affirms the popular declaration that life is short. Even though it is true that eternity is not achievable on Earth, longevity is at least attainable. Life expectancy is a function of strict adherence to simple principles that governs health. If this is exactly the case why then should priority be given to some health conditions to the neglect and exclusion of other equally important ones like Hepatitis-B. Hepatitis-B is a preventable health condition that has been allowed to claim nearly a million lives every year. This is the crux of the matter. For clarity and better understanding of the condition a multidisciplinary charity medical team of Long Life Africa (LLA), a health NGO examines the gargantuan danger pose by Hepatitis-B to the youth of Ghana and the world at large. Hepatitis-B virus (HBV) affects many people and ranks behind HIV/AIDS as the tenth leading cause of death in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) about two billion people are infected with Hepatitis-B&C, out of which nearly one million deaths occur annually. In addition, about 350 million people are chronic carriers of HVB worldwide. Of this, more than 620,000 people will die from liver- related diseases. Information available to Long Life Africa reveals that the situation is no different in Ghana.
According to the Ghana demographic health survey, HBV is very endemic in Ghana particularly in the Upper East Region where it is believed that about 21% of the population is Hepatitis-B positive. Currently it is circulated in the media and many other places that about four million Ghanaians are Hepatitis-B positive. This information could be quite true since there are inadequate data on this condition in the country.
The danger of Hepatitis-B is that it is asymptomatic. This means that those living with the condition do not show any symptom until their liver is partially or wholly damaged. This not withstanding causes the disease to spread freely like wild fire since those affected are not aware of their condition. Besides, the condition is about (50-100%) infectious than HIV/ADIS. This implies that the organism which causes Hepatitis-B can be isolated in all body fluids like saliva, sweat, blood etc. This makes it possible for the organism to spread through mere sharing of spoons, Tooth brush, Barbering machines, pedicure and manicure procedures, sharing of syringes and needles(especially Drug Addicts), kissing and casual sex just to mention a few. On a more serious note the disease just like HIV/AIDS can only be managed. It has no cure due to its complex nature. What then is Hepatitis-B? Read more on www.longlifeafrica.com.
The good news however, is that Hepatitis-B unlike HIV/AIDS has a vaccine that protect people against it. Unfortunately, there is lack of political will towards eradication of the disease. This apathy from Governments across the World has led to lack of policy direction on its preventive strategies leading to low public awareness of the disease.
In Ghana however, the Ministry of Health has a policy that incorporated the condition into the childhood immunization program in 2002. This nonetheless is a step in the right direction but woefully inadequate. The inadequacy of this policy is that only children who are born after 2002 are protected against the disease while the vast majority of the youth who are the future leaders of this nation are left to die silently by the silent killer. Due to the complexities and the challenges pose by Hepatitis-B to the Youth in particular and the Nation at large, Long Life Africa was formed to embark on free vaccination campaign in Junior High, Senior High and Tertiary Schools across the country. It’s possible and so all hands must be on desk, it is a collective responsibility, so we are appealing to all well meaning Ghanaians for both their financial and material support in this regard. We are also by this article advising all Ghanaians to check their status and take the Hepatitis-B vaccine to protect them against such preventable death like Hepatitis-B.
Finally this article would not be complete without appealing to all stakeholders including the Ministry of Health/Ghana health service, private companies, NGOs, research institutions, and every individual to as a matter of urgency help in diverse ways to close the existing gaps in policies, programs and research on Hepatitis-B to safeguard the future of the Youth and the nation at large.
Writer: Mr. Alex Atakli
Executive Director Long Life Africa