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IS HEPATITIS B CURABLE? ...SAY NO TO IGNORANCE

In 1965, Dr. Baruch Blumberg discovered Hepatitis B virus. Originally, the virus was called the 'Australia Antigen' because it was named an Australian aborigine's blood sample that reacted with an antibody in the serum of an American hemophilia patient.

Dr. Blumberg developed a blood test for the Hepatitis B virus. In 1971, the blood banks began using the test to screen blood donations and the risk of Hepatitis B infections from blood transfusion decreased by 25 percent.

Four Years later, Dr. Blumberg and Millman developed the first Hepatitis B vaccine which was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration till 1981 when FDA approved a more sophisticated plasma-derived Hepatitis B vaccine for human use.

Hepatitis B is the most common serious liver infection in the world. It is caused by the Hepatitis B virus that attacks the liver. The virus is transmitted through blood. This can occur through direct blood to blood contact, unprotected sex, and use of unsterile needles and from an infected woman to her new born during the delivery process. There is a safe and effective vaccine to protect you and your loved ones against Hepatitis B.

There are two types of Hepatitis B Virus namely Acute Hepatitis B and Chronic Hepatitis B. A new infection (Acute HBV) may go away on its own in the first six months of infection. Most of the people do not need any therapy at the early stage of the disease. Thus, if an adult gets infected with the HBV, there is about 90 percent chance that the person's immune system (the body's defense system) will fight the disease off in the first six months (the acute phase) and no treatment might be necessary.

In Ghana, some of the doctors will treat the person at this stage and later they will claim that they have cured the disease or they can cure the disease. When you tune in to radios or switch on your TV set, you will see these doctors saying that they have cured someone with Hepatitis B virus. Are they ignorant? Or they do not do research on the disease? Patients will start going to these doctors for treatment, after some months when they see that they cannot cure it then they will tell the patients that Hepatitis B is not curable or treatable so patients should see a pastor for prayers because it is a spiritual disease. My question is, Is Hepatitis B a curse? I don't believe it is a curse but because of ignorance some people think it is a curse.

Most of the patients pay a huge sum of money to these doctors and at end the patients will be told this disease is not curable or treatable. My question is, so what were those treating? Some of the doctors prescribed food supplement and herbal drugs to the patient and these drugs are very expensive than the traditional drugs like tenofovir.

My brothers and sisters, acute Hepatitis B does not need treatment but with a strong immune a system your body can clear the virus within six months. The patient needs to follow up blood test to confirm recovery from an acute infection.

People who test positive for the hepatitis B virus for more than six months are diagnosed as having a chronic Hepatitis B. They were not able to get rid of the virus and it still remain in their blood. People with chronic Hepatitis B live a long and healthy life. There are treatments for those who have developed chronic Hepatitis B. Chronic Hepatitis B virus may be treated with anti-viral medication such as Adefovir, Entecavir, interferon, lamivudine, telbivudine and tenofovir. Most of these drugs are not available or accessible in Ghana, so some doctors prescribe lamivudine which is cheaper and accessible in Ghana but one or two years later your body will show resistance to the lamivudine. Treatment of the chronic Hepatitis B does not cure the disease but suppress it. Chronic Hepatitis B is manageable like Diabetes. The goal of the treatment is to improve the quality of life and survival rate of the patients by preventing progression of the disease to cirrhosis and end stage of liver disease. In my country it is a crime to ask a doctor a question.

The information I have now is that some of the laboratory technicians in Ghana have started prescribing or selling herbal medicine to patients when they go there to do the test. I was sad when I read in the newspapers that most of the drugs in government hospitals are fake. What was Food and Drugs Board in Ghana doing? Is their work to check these drugs before they get to general public? We should hold some people accountable for their mistakes. Are we serious as a country? Some of the drugs and vaccines are from China and India which is not approved by FDA and WHO will find their way into the Ghanaian market or African market. When the President of Ghana was reading the state of the nation address, he did not mention one policy and intervention on Hepatitis. This disease is killing more people than HIV/AIDS.

The doctors in Ghana do not have time for the patients. Our doctor is always right or is it because they do not know, so when you ask them questions, you are trying to bring out their ignorance. The patient does not have the right to ask questions. Some diseases which shouldn't have killed people but are killing people in Ghana.

Last year, I visited one of the big hospitals in Ghana for malaria treatment. The doctor prescribed some drugs for me; anytime I took the drugs I started vomiting and become weak. A week later I went to the doctor to complain and suggested to him if he can change the drugs for me. This doctor told me he is in charge and I cannot tell him what to do and when I left his office I called a friend of mine who is a doctor and the prescribed some drugs for me. Three days later I was okay. If I did not consult another doctor I could have died by now.

My brothers and Sisters, be sure that you understand the pros and cons of each treatment option. Be sure of drugs or medication you are talking, some of them are fake.

Some of us have lost our loved ones through this disease. We have millions of cedis to save their lives but it was too late and couldn't because this disease is not curable but treatable.

Currently, there is no government intervention to tackle this disease. Hepatitis B is highly endemic in Ghana. Yet not much is being done to tackle this epidemic mainly due to lack of funds which goes to other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB.

Government will tell you that Hepatitis B vaccine is free for new born babies but when I follow up to these hospitals and clinics it is not true. Parents are asked to pay for it or buy it themselves. 90 percent of the health budget goes to staff salaries so what is left does not cover much priorities such as Malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS. Other diseases such as Hepatitis need to piggyback on these major disease programmes. Ghana National Health Insurance does not cover Hepatitis. Most of the Ghanaians cannot afford the treatment cost and died.

The Government should consider viral hepatitis as an urgent health issue and come out with comprehensive strategies to prevent and control viral Hepatitis in the country. Viral Hepatitis has economic impact on the country.

The hard work and dedication of doctors and other health care professionals, researchers, and advocates will help in ensuring a healthy citizenry for economic development and growth. We must make sure that this 'silent epidemic' does not go unnoticed by health care professionals, the government and communities across the country.

Your Support and donations will be vital in ensure causes of increasing awareness of the devastating effects of viral Hepatitis and prevention programmes in the country. This year's World Hepatitis Day will be celebrated at Brong Ahafo Region (Sunyani precise)

Hepatitis B is not curable but treatable. Know it, confront it and Get Tested.

From: Theobald Owusu-Ansah
President, Theobald Hepatitis B Foundation
Regional Board Member, World Hepatitis Alliance
Email: theobald2003@yahoo.com or president@theobaldhepb.org

Tel: +233-247-093-893/ +233-26-826-9214
Home: + 233-320-333-667
Web: www.theobaldhepb.org / www.worldhepatitisalliance.org

Disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Theobald Owusu-Ansah.