The World Health Organisation (WHO) classification report has said that Ghana is endemic of hepatitis B infection, Mr Charles Ampong Adjei, A Public Health Specialist and lecturer at the University of Ghana made this known.
He said it was also evident by a recent research finding showing that 12.3 per cent of Ghanaians are living with viral hepatitis B and called for more sustainable action in the country to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.
These and many other factors influenced the development of the first guidelines for the care, treatment, management and support of the people with hepatitis B in 2015 and hepatitis C in 2018 by the WHO, he said.
Mr Adjei made this known to the Ghana News Agency at a two day 2nd Hepatitis Summit, under the theme, “Developing Appropriate Response To The Burden of Viral Hepatitis In Ghana’’ in Accra.
He said the disease was a silent killer, more than HIV and Malaria, and that it slowly degrades a person’ health and places huge economic burden on the affected individual and family.
Mr Adjei, who is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Hepatitis Alliance of Ghana, A Research Firm, said as the world looks to 2030, and prepares to meet the challenges of the Sustainable Development’ Goals Three, Ghana needs to take the elimination challenge with commitment and force.
He expressed regret that a killer disease such as hepatitis B, had rather received less global and national attention despite its devastating impact on individuals, families, communities and countries.
He said Ghana was one of the countries that included hepatitis B vaccination in its Expanded Programme on immunisation in 2002, of which pentavalent vaccine had been part of the routine vaccination schedule given to every new born at 6,10 and 14 weeks after birth.
“Unfortunately, Ghana is not part of the countries that had initiated and implemented hepatitis B birth dose vaccination as a national policy’’. he said.
“This suggests that new-borns to mother, who are positive for hepatitis B have to wait until they are 6 weeks before they receive protection against the virus, adding that, this is a huge gab in our response to the disease burden in Ghana especially, where mother to child transmission is well documented as the most predominant means of hepatitis B transmission in endemic countries, such as Ghana’’.
The Hepatitis Researcher said cost associated with the implementation of the monovalent birth dose vaccination but in reality, “our inaction could lead to death of these innocent new-borns which he believed would be more costly than the intervention’’.
Mr Adjei said Ghana has no excuse not to protect children from this life threatening disease, especially when effective vaccine known to avert mother to child transmission was available.
He called on the Government to include the comprehensive therapy regimen, and all the laboratory test associated with hepatitis infection particularly, the viral load on the National Health Insurance Scheme to allow many people who die from complications of the disease, as a result of cost, to have life.
Mr Attuahene Kyeremeh, Acting Director of the Ghana Aids Commission (GAC), said the Commission strongly advocates the integrate of hepatitis into HIV treatment, because they are retroviruses, and are transmitted through the same modes, to a large extent, and most cases requires very similar interventions to prevent control and treat them.
He said developing a response for viral hepatitis for Ghana, calls for a strategy strongly aligned with a national policy on the disease.
“It also requires a process through which we define fundamental principles, programmes tailored for priority populations, expected results and the institutional framework to drive the response to the epidemic.
“This calls for evidence based approach where various types of data from variety of sources such as surveillance, implementation science, behavioural survey, special studies and evaluation to establish the determinants of the epidemic.
He said the national strategy should demonstrate full commitment to the global fast-track target of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030, adding that, strong alignment and synergy with global response is the surest way to success.
Dr Florence Naab, a Lecturer at the University of Ghana, who chaired the function, called on health professionals to do serious advocacy to ensure total elimination of the disease.