Alarmed by the health challenges Africans face due to the growing rate of hepatitis B and C diseases which are often described as silent killers, Pharm. (Mrs) Bisi Bright, the Vice President, Livewell Initiative (LWI), and founder, Women in Hepatitis Africa (WIHA), has disclosed the intention of the group to train 10,000 women as ‘Hepatitis Champions’ by 2020.
Speaking at a Hepatitis Advocacy Awareness and Screening Programme,organised by WIHA, at DRF Building, National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, Mrs. Bright, who is a clinical pharmacist and public health practitioner, noted that nine in every ten people living with hepatitis have no idea they have the disease, saying more than 70 million people are affected across Africa.
Pharm. (Mrs.) Bisi Bright further explained that the group, WIHA was established with a vision to eliminate viral hepatitis in Africa by the year 2030 through advocacy, screening, vaccination, and empowerment, saying its establishment was out of a dire need to further fill the healthcare gaps for women and children.
She said the programme tagged, “10by20 WIHA Women Champions” (WWCs), was meant to train 10,000 Women Champions in Africa as hepatitis advocates, adding that those who have been trained are expected to go out and train 20 women in their respective communities.
According to her, the aim of this initiative is to train as many women as possible and turn them to “hepatitis champions”, so that they can help carry the hepatitis message across, and ensure that women get screened and vaccinated, including their children. “We believe that by the time the women have benefited, the men, of course, would definitely enjoy their wealth of knowledge, thereby emancipating Africa from the claw of hepatitis, which is in line with the WHO’s goal of viral hepatitis elimination by the year 2020,” she said.
Highlighting the challenges currently facing Nigeria in tackling hepatitis, Mrs Bright, lamented that the cost of hepatitis test was out of reach of low-income Nigerians, saying many patients have abandoned treatment due to lack of fund or unaffordability of treatment cost.
She explained that “Due to the high costs of care, many patients when they get to the referral centre or referral laboratory tell the practitioners that they will return for the tests as they do not have cash, but most times that ends the story.
Pharm. (Dr) Nseabasi Ekanem, While conducting a practical session with the participants, who were made up of members of the Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs), noted that Over ninety percent of people living with Viral Hepatitis in Africa are not aware of the scourge. He said the training was organised as a complementary capacity development programme for the members of the association so that they can also go out after the training and start impacting lives.
“Every woman we train here today is expected to form a Cell of at least 20 other women and get them activated on how to prevent the transmission of viral hepatitis, create awareness, and carry out screening and vaccination. So we are expecting all of you as professionals to go back home and form a Cell, get them activated, start screening, and encourage other women to be trained too”, he stressed.
The event also included a practical session that demonstrated how the screening is done, and presentation of certificates to all the participants.