Panafrican News Agency

Health experts urge governments to invest in hepatitis elimination in Africa

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) -  Health experts on Thursday urged African governments and other stakeholders to take advantage of recent reductions in the costs of diagnosing and treating viral hepatitis and scale up investments in elimination of the disease in order to save lives.

The appeal came on the sidelines of the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA)  currently taking place in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Speaking at a panel session co-organised by the Society for AIDS in Africa and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa region, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), said that it has been seen that Hepatitis is more prevalent with the age increase.

"Four years ago, for one individual to be cured, it cost $1,000 a pill. Now we can cure one person just for $60. Our goal is to reach a total of 4 million people aged above 15 years with hepatitis screened in Africa," he said.

A conducted by WHO  found that investing US$ 6 billion a year in eliminating hepatitis in 67 low- and middle-income countries would avert 4.5 million premature deaths by 2030, and more than 26 million deaths beyond that target date.

For the vast majority of the 325 million people living with hepatitis B and/or C, accessing testing and treatment remains beyond their reach, it said.

In addition, the UN agency stressed that by investing in diagnostic tests and medicines for treating hepatitis B and C now, countries can save lives and reduce costs related to the long-term care of cirrhosis and liver cancer that result from untreated hepatitis.

There are five types of viral hepatitis infections -- A, B, C, D and E.

Health experts explain that over 95 percent of deaths are caused by chronic hepatitis B and C infections, while hepatitis A and E rarely cause life-threatening illnesses.

Hepatitis D is an additional infection occurring in people living with hepatitis B.

"With everyone's commitment, we will be able to take the leads in eradicating this problem," Dr Nsanzimana said.

Official estimates show that in Africa, chronic viral hepatitis affects over 70 million people (60 million with Hepatitis B and 10 million with Hepatitis C)

-0- PANA TWA/AR 5Dec2019