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Experts canvass dedicated budget for viral hepatitis



Perturbed by the current global burden of viral hepatitis, which purportedly affects over 325 million people, the need for the federal and state governments to ensure dedicated budget line for the scourge has become a source of concern to medical professionals.

The experts, who made the demand yesterday at a workshop organised by the Centre For Initiative Development (CFID), expressed concern at the prevalence of the disease, which they said was 10 times larger than the global HIV epidemic. Supported by the Gilead Science, the forum was organised mainly for doctors, pharmacists, laboratory scientists and nurses in Taraba State.

The exercise, which was geared towards increasing capacity of health providers and viral hepatitis B and C awareness, prevention, testing and linkage to care in Taraba and Adamawa states, took place in Jalingo.Over 10,000 persons, including inmates of Jalingo correctional centre, pupils between 11 and 16 years of age and the public benefitted from free testing at the event.

In his presentation, a professor of Medicine and Gastroenterology from the University of Jos UNIJOS), Orkurha Malu, observed that Nigeria may rank among countries with the highest viral hepatitis B burden.He believes that with a dedicated budget line, the massive presence of the epidemic in the country would be a thing of the past in no time.

Malu, who charged the participants drawn from the 16 councils of Taraba to reach out with the message of hepatitis to the rural communities, urged governments at all levels to set aside certain amount for hepatitis in their annual budgets.

The National Desk Officer, Viral Hepatitis Control, Abuja, Dr. Adesigbin Clement, agreed that dedicated budget line for hepatitis would go a long way in addressing the challenges posed by the spread of the disease.Worried that pregnant women were still being compelled to pay for hepatitis screening, he urged governments at all levels to replicate what is obtainable in the case of HIV/AIDS screening to hepatitis where pregnant women are screened for free.

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of CFID, Danjuma Adda, felt sad at the prevalence of the disease in the northern part of the country, adding that Taraba’s case along was higher than that of the entire country.

The coordinator of the Nasarawa State Agency for the Control of AIDS, Dr. Bello Nabe, who was also one of the resource persons, disclosed that the prevalence of viral hepatitis in males was higher than that of the females.Putting the ratio at 63:37, she said the scourge could be addressed only if governments, health experts and other stakeholders were willing to the needful.


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