3 February 2013

Rwanda: Govt Commissions Research On Hepatitis B

The Ministry of Health is conducting research to establish the prevalence of Hepatitis B virus in the country.

Hepatitis B is a common disease infecting more than 300 million people worldwide. It is normally passed on through the exchange of bodily fluids and through sexual intercourse with an infected person.

Hepatitis B can also be transmitted during delivery from an infected mother to the baby.

According to Dr Emmanuel Musabeyezu of King Faisal Hospital, HBV can also be spread through use of non-sterilised medical equipment and unsafe injections.

Dr Musabeyezu said the research is meant to help health policy planners determine interventions.

There are three types of Hepatitis; A, B and C. However, B and C are the commonest.

Dr Musabeyezu advises that people should screen and test for the disease early enough and start medication if they are infected.

"People who are sexually active and not infected should be vaccinated against the disease. The vaccine was introduced in Rwanda 10 years ago and is available at health facilities so people should utilise it," he said.

Officials said treatment for Hepatitis B is expensive, which is why the ministry is discussing with the manufacturer to reduce the price for Rwanda to enable more people access it.

Hepatitis B progresses fast and those infected with it should check after every six months. Worse is that chances of cure are very minimal, according to health officials.

Patients' experience

Martha Ingabire, 29, a patient, bemoans the treatment, which she says is still a big challenge in Rwanda.

"Treatment for this disease is very expensive. My only hope is that the concerned authorities find a way of helping us get this medication at an affordable cost," she said.

Ingabire advised Rwandans to go for vaccinations, screening and testing and start early treatment before the disease reaches its advanced stages.

Five years ago, treatment for the disease was not available in Rwanda. However, King Faisal and other hospital nowadays treat the disease.

Hepatitis B hardly shows signs and symptoms, but doctors say an infected person is likely to suffer chronic liver damage, and if infected at birth, the child may become a chronic carrier.

If one lives with the disease for long, they may develop liver cancer, chronic hepatitis, among others.

In Rwanda, currently there is no data of the prevalence and status of the disease.

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