26 October 2016
HEPATITIS B is fast becoming a menace and people should be warned against the dangers of having unprotected sex, Health and Child Care Minister, David Parirenyatwa said last week.
Speaking during a UN Women meeting on women’s participation and engagement in the national HIV response, Minister Parirenyatwa reiterated that HIV was not the only public health threat in the country noting that Hepatitis was fast becoming a menace.
“People should be warned, there is also Hepatitis B which is fast becoming a menace. You might be HIV negative but could have hepatitis or other sexually transmitted infections.
“So HIV is not the only burden in the country and as we emphasise on closing the tap on new HIV infections, people should also know that there are other infections out there,” he said.
Minister Parirenyatwa bemoaned the rising cases in sexually transmitted infections which he said had potential to reverse all the HIV gains the country has achieved over the years.
The Minister’s warning on hepatitis comes at a time when the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged countries to take rapid action to improve knowledge on Hepatitis with research revealing that 95 percent of people infected with hepatitis B and C around the world were not aware of their status.
Marking the World Hepatitis day in July, WHO director general, Dr Margaret Chan said there was need for countries to increase access to testing and treatment services so that those infected know their status.
“The world has ignored hepatitis at its peril. It is time to mobilise a global response to hepatitis on a scale similar to that generated to fight other communicable diseases like HIV and tuberculosis,” said Dr Chan ahead of the Hepatitis day.
According to the world health lobby group, 400 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis B and C, more than 10 times the number of people living with HIV with an estimated 1, 45 million people succumbing to it in 2013.
“A staggering 95 percent of people infected with hepatitis B or C around the world do not know they are infected.
“One reason for this is that people can live without symptoms for many years. When they find out they have hepatitis, it is often too late for treatment to be fully effective. As a result, liver damage becomes cirrhosis or liver cancer.
“To help countries build up national hepatitis testing and treatment programmes and to encourage more people globally to get tested, WHO will shortly release new testing guidelines for hepatitis B and C,” cited WHO.
Zimbabwe is among the 184 countries which vaccinates infants against hepatitis B as part of their vaccination schedules.
According to the World Health Organisation, hepatitis B and C infections are transmitted through contaminated unprotected sex, blood as well as through contaminated needles and syringes in healthcare setting and among people who inject drugs and from an infected mother to her newborn child.
An inflammation of the liver, hepatitis is most often caused by a virus, but it can be the result of exposure to certain toxic agents, such as drugs or chemicals. One viral form of the disease is spread by contaminated food and water, and other forms by contaminated injection needles and blood transfusions.