Uganda is hosting the first ever African Hepatitis Summit aimed at rallying partners and countries to eliminate viral hepatitis in Africa.
The event which has brought together participants from over 25 countries has the main theme of “Eliminating Viral Hepatitis in Africa; Implementing the Viral Hepatitis Strategy”.
The event aims to provide an opportunity for countries to develop and work towards implementing action plans, sharing best practices and lessons learned from each other in the fight against viral hepatitis.
According to the Uganda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment survey, (UPHIA, 2016), it is estimated that the prevalence of viral hepatitis B in Uganda is at 4.1% in the population aged 15-64 years.
The disease prevalence, however, varies from region to region with the highest prevalence in the North at 4.6% and the lowest in Southwest at 0.8%. While the actual prevalence of viral hepatitis C in Uganda is unknown, the data from the National Blood Bank indicates that the prevalence of hepatitis C among blood donors in Uganda is approximately 1.5%.
The first session of the summit was presided over by the Vice President of Uganda His Excellency Edward Ssekandi, who represented the President of Uganda. In his statement, the president informed the delegates that advocacy for vaccination against viral hepatitis is at the forefront of his work.
“I implored the Ministry of Health to immunize all adolescents and adults in the country and get rid of hepatitis B and vaccination started in July 2015.”
“I have personally participated in mobilizing the masses to get vaccinated. However, it’s important to sensitize people on the modes of transmission during such international events,” he said.
To mitigate hepatitis B prevalence, Uganda has embarked on producing first line drugs recommended for treating hepatitis B. This makes it one of the first countries in Africa to produce the medicines. This is being done by Cipla Quality Chemical Industries Ltd, a WHO-approved pharmaceutical manufacturer.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in Africa, dying of viral hepatitis is becoming a bigger threat than dying of AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis.
WHO estimates that every year, 200,000 people die from the complications of viral hepatitis B and C, mostly liver cancer, in Africa.
WHO goes on to state that 60 million people have been living with chronic hepatitis B infection from the year 2015, of which, 4.8 million are children under five years old. In addition, an estimated 10 million people are infected with hepatitis C, almost certainly due to unsafe injection practices.