By Festus Fifen
Nigerians have been advised to always be careful when handling blood and blood related cases so as not to be exposed to hepatitis B or C infections that have become a major problem in the world today.
Honorable minister of health Prof. Oyebuchi Chukwu said this in Abuja while declaring open a technical working committee meeting of stakeholders on the development of policy and guidelines for viral Hepatitis in Nigeria
Represented by the Director, of public health, in the Federal Ministry of Health Dr. Bridget Okoeguale, the minister said the purpose of developing the policy is to make sure that everybody is at the same level to implement the policy on hepatitis which is mostly transferred from one person to another through blood contact either through blood transfusion or careless contacts with blood.
The minister said it is cheaper to prevent the disease which mostly affects the liver thereby causing liver cancer. He added that the meeting was to make sure that policies are inline with The world Organization’s Guidelines for the disease and also creating awareness on the need to live responsibly on the various ways to prevent it and when already infected, knowing the steps to take immediately.
One of the resource persons from Kenya Dr. Shaffiq Essajee who gave an overview of hepatitis infection said it is a global problem and about 175 million people are infected with the disease worldwide and about half a million people die of the disease every year mostly due to liver failure or liver cancer. He was however excited that the disease is now curable if detected early enough.
Dr. Shaffiq said Nigeria is the first country in the African continent to hold such a meeting that will formulated policy guild line for the disease. He however pointed out that Nigeria’s health system which is broken into federal, state and local government system has created a major challenge thereby making it difficult for the implementation of health policies in the country adding that the country should look for a way to remove the differences that makes it difficult to access funding for health related researches.
On the affordability and the cost of treatment for hepatitis cases, Dr. Shaffiq said it is still above the reach of an average Nigerian ” i will say that very few individuals today in Nigeria can afford the treatment of hepatitis on their own, even as the best negotiated price for treatment today in Nigeria would be in the excess of about $1,400 (dollars) so you see for the majority of Nigerians that is a huge cost to bear, remember that many people with hepatitis C feel fine, so sometimes it is ridiculous for you to tell someone who feel he/she is fine to spend such money on a treatment they don’t feel they need, but the bottom line is, it is very dangerous to wait until you develop liver disease or liver cancer. Though expensive the way out is to act quickly when diagnosed with hepatitis in order to prevent it from spreading further” he added.
Professor Olusegun Ojo a professor of pathology from the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile ife who is also a member of the committee noted that hepatitis is a silent killer that needs to be taken seriously since it usually have little or no symptom at the beginning with long term consequences. He emphasis that the technical committee meeting is mainly for formulating policies and guild lines that will affect the distribution of resources so that the disease can be effectively brought under control in Nigeria which will also take care of ways of preventing it and how treatments will be accessed by an average Nigeria because the treatment can be very expensive.
The meeting was well attended by stakeholders in the disease control sector in Nigeria