By Daudi Zirimala
The President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni has assured health experts that advocacy for vaccination against viral hepatitis is at the forefront of his work, and the Ministry of Health will immunize all adolescents and adults in the country and get rid of Hepatitis B and vaccination started in July 2015.
Speaking at the opening of the first ever African Hepatitis Summit, the president who was represented by his Vice Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi said that it’s important to sensitize people on the modes of transmission hepatitis B during such international events.
The Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, informed the delegates that the Government of Uganda adopted the World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions of 2010 and 2014 on viral hepatitis that recognize the disease as a public health problem.
She further revealed that the Ministry of Health established a Hepatitis Technical Working Group, which developed a strategic action plan for the elimination of Hepatitis B, a Vaccination plan to vaccinate adolescents and adults and statutory instruments declaring Hepatitis B as a public health threat in Uganda.
In Africa, dying of viral hepatitis is becoming a bigger threat than dying of AIDS, Malaria or Tuberculosis. It is estimated that every year, 200,000 people die from the complications of viral hepatitis B and C mostly liver cancer in Africa.
This is against a background that, 60 million people in this region were living with chronic hepatitis B infection as early as 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.
In Uganda, according to the Uganda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment survey, (UPHIA, 2016), it is estimated that the prevalence of Viral Hepatitis B 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%.
To mitigate Hepatitis B prevalence, Uganda has embarked on producing the 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 says Aceng.