OpEd, Politics

Protection against Hepatitis B

By Agar Mayor Gai-Makoon

Last week the world commemorated the World Hepatitis Day. On this day we not only remember the lives lost to the deadly disease, but it is also a break to revise our health system and approaches that aim at controlling hepatitis B through testing, early diagnosis and treatment. Under the theme,’’ one life, one liver’’, this year’s message tells us much about the connection between hepatitis disease and liver, and liver and life. The liver is the center of human life. The virus can attack the liver resulting in death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. The liver requires serious protection against the hepatitis b virus infection.  It is a stubborn virus that can stay outside the body for at least a week. The commonest ways of transmitting the virus are exposure to infected blood, or from mother to child at birth. Other ways are piercing, and exposure to body fluids such as saliva, menstrual, vaginal and seminal fluids.

The message this year is that more efforts aimed at protecting and saving our local population from the deadly virus are required. The awareness measures have to be intensified and made easier and more accessible to the population at risk.  The four-year national strategic plan on viral hepatitis was a commendable move by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization in 2020. It is unclear why this plan is no longer in place. No mass testing has been done at the state and county levels, no free vaccination campaigns have been launched. Instead, people are asked for payment at Juba teaching hospital and other private hospitals which has actually discouraged many people who could not afford to pay for vaccination. The vaccination should be free of charge and the vaccines made available in all state hospitals, county and boma public health care centers. The plan should be revised and supervised so that it yields the needed outcomes. Our situation is dire, and it is not wise to make these programs limited and expensive. More than seventy percent of our population according to the SSNBS report, is rural and below the poverty line. This is already a big load that cannot be topped up by lack of and limited expensive health services or else, we risk losing our health.

Young people also require serious awareness campaigns, especially in primary and secondary schools about the risks and risk factors for contracting the deadly virus. The doctors at our hospitals though there is no available data, do admit that more young and sexually active youth are infected by the virus than other age groups in this country. This is due to the ravaging and increasing rise in the rates of premarital sex among the young. This practice should be seriously discouraged, and all young people be advised to practice abstinence, get vaccinated and do other healthy lifestyles such as eating healthy diet.

People should always seek early treatment if they are diagnosed positive for the viral disease. Stop the disinformation that it is not treatable. It can be treated. It only can’t if left untreated for long in that, it can damage the liver leading to death from liver cancer. It is required that the Ministry of Health and its partners make this treatment available too by allocating more funds to it. Good health is capital for a country’s economic progress and development. And perhaps, all our moves at these critical times must point to a health system built on the foundation of life and the ability to save life.


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