The Centre for Family Health Initiative, a non-profit organisation, on Friday took its campaign against Hepatitis to Female Sex Workers (FSW) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Executive Director of the centre, Princess Oleribe, led other members of the organisation on a campaign to Kubwa, a suburb in the FCT.
She said that the campaign was part of efforts to mark the 2019 World Hepatitis Day with a focus on finding people living with Hepatitis, who were undiagnosed and link them to care.
The Day is celebrated globally every July 28.
The theme for this year is, “Find the Missing Millions” aimed at raising awareness around viral Hepatitis and the impact it has worldwide.
Oleribe explained that Hepatitis is a disease caused by a virus saying that in Nigeria today, “we have a lot of it, more common than people realise.”
She said that there was the viral and non-viral Hepatitis.
“The viral is caused by the virus A, B, C, D and E and are those ones that can transmit from one person to another. And that is definitely something you should be conscious about.
The A and E, you are looking at hygiene; how your water and food is made and prepared and how it can move from one person to another.
For B, C, especially, you are looking at sexual transmission, mother-to-child transmission, sharing of sharp objects and many of those things we have come to know within the space of HIV.”
While speaking on the focus on women, Oleribe said that viral hepatitis was sexually transmitted, “so, if you are in a trade that exposes you to more sex so to speak, then you may be at more risk.
“And so, we want to make sure they are safe and we are not judging anybody, but we are saying you can be protected.
Unlike the women who have a place where you go meet them, men don’t have that kind of residence where you find them all in one place.
We are definitely happy to deal with men as with women.
There is an estimation of about 20 million to 24 million of Nigerians living with Hepatitis; and the problem with it is that when you say Hepatitis, you are talking about the liver.
The liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolises drugs.”
She said that Hepatitis affected the liver and when the liver was gone, then the person is dead.
“That is why the disease is a very delicate and needs to call people’s attention to, and cause Nigerians to assess, first of all, do I have it, if I have it, what can I do.”
She further explained that the disease was deadlier than HIV because of the lack of awareness of the infection.
“People tend to be more afraid of HIV and more deliberate about knowing their status with HIV.
But with hepatitis, people tend not to even pay attention to it until they are down and dying,” she advised.
Also speaking, Dr Mariam Alhassan, a Medical Officer at the centre, said acute Hepatitis was the state between the first time a person got in contact with the virus to six months after.
In that period, research has shown that if the body has good immunity, it should be strong enough to be able to clear that virus on its own.
But if not, after six months, you have to go for test, if you are still testing positive that means your body has not been able to get rid of it, you have gotten to the chronic state which causes cancer of the liver.”
She advised Nigerians to go for testing to determine their status and, if positive, get the needed treatment.