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Uganda Told to Do More to Control Hepatitis B

As Uganda prepares to host the African Hepatitis Summit at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Tuesday, the government of Uganda and other Africa countries have been advised to seek funds that will enable them to provide citizens with free hepatitis B vaccination, diagnosis, and treatment

Because of the high cost of the vaccination, diagnosis and treatment, most Ugandans rarely go for hepatitis B checkup, which leaves most of them unaware of their status until it is too late.

According to the Uganda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment Survey (UPHIA), the prevalence of Hepatitis B infection among adults in Uganda stands at 4.3% (5.6% among men and 3.1% among women).

Although The Ministry of Health started vaccination of adolescents and adults against Hepatitis B virus disease in 2015 at a no fee, there are still many Ugandans that are not vaccinated.  In private hospitals the cost is between 50,000 shillings and 85,000 shillings

According to Dr. Luis Gonzalez, Director of Medical & Scientific Affairs, Infectious Disease – Emerging Markets at Abbott, there is need for governments to prioritize control of Hepatitis B which is on the rise in African countries and could have far reaching effects if not controlled.

“Like HIV/AIDS that has received so much attention and funding from the global communities, there is need for countries and funders to also think about Hepatitis B because it is now killing more people that AIDS does” he said

This was during a media roundtable briefing held today at Speke Resort Munyonyo by Abbott to sensitive, educate and inform journalists on the sensitivity of the disease. The briefing was also to give updates on the upcoming Africa Hepatisis summit scheduled for 18th to 20th of June 2019.

The conference, which is convened Uganda Ministry of Health and hosted by The National Organization for People Living with Hepatitis B (NOPLHB) on behalf of the African Chapter of World Hepatitis Alliance and other partners is intended to create more awareness about the disease to the local communities and the global funders.

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This year’s summit will be attended by over 1000 delegates from civil society groups, WHO and its member states, patient organizations, policy makers, public health scientists, Ministry of Finance, African Union, East African Community, Academia, Politicians, CDC, World Hepatitis Alliance and Scientists. The president of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is expected to officially open the summit.

Viral hepatitis is a major global public health problem. New WHO data reveal that an estimated 325 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The WHO Global Report, 2017 indicates that the majority of these people lack access to life saving testing and treatment. As a result, millions of people are at a risk of a slow progression of chronic liver disease, cancer and death.

According to  Michael G. Berg, a Principal Scientist in Infectious Disease Research at Abbott Diagnostics (ADD), improved research has so far improved fast diagnostics of Hepatitis B while will go along away in reduction and eventually elimination of the disease

“A recent clinical trial in Uganda demonstrated the high sensitivity of Abbott’s Determine™ HBsAg 2 rapid test for the detection of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) in serum, plasma or whole blood. The clinical trials findings also noted the test’s ease of use and excellent performance on various sample types” he said

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