Victoria University healthcare centre has, since September, been in a free Hepatitis B testing drive. The drive, which will end on December 31, has revealed some surprising results, at least to Ugandans who were unaware that Hepatitis B is rather common.
Out of the more than 1,000 individuals who have tested so far, 20 per cent have turned out to be Hepatitis B positive, the health centre’s administrator, Daisy Nangonzi, says.
“People come in looking healthy but they turn out positive. With couples, you will find that the man is positive but the woman is negative. It is important for people to test [therefore] as Hepatitis B spreads through the exchange of body fluids,” Nangonzi says of the disease which can be symptom-free for a long time.
Dr Richard Lukandwa, the chief medical officer of the health centre, is, however, unsurprised by the Hepatitis B positive results.
“A sero-survey carried out in 2005 showed that one in 10 people [10 per cent] have Hepatitis B. That is why all adults should test and get vaccinated [where found negative],” Lukandwa says.
He also says all babies should be immunized Uganda introduced routine Hepatitis B vaccination for babies in 2002. Expectant mothers should get tested so that in case they test positive, their children are vaccinated at birth. Vaccinations have been subsidised at the health centre, with a dose going for Shs 30,000 a dose usually goes for Shs 45,000.
Three vaccination doses, with the first being given after one tests negative, the second given a month later and the third after five months, are required. For those found to be positive and in need of treatment – not every positive person needs treatment – the health centre is in talks with drug companies to subsidise costs.
“Most of the people who have tested positive are the poor. These cannot afford the Shs 750,000 that is sometimes needed for treatment each month,” Nangonzi says.
Note, however, that treatment of Hepatitis B is free in government health centres, according to Kenneth Kabagambe, the executive director of the National Organisation of People Living with Hepatitis B.
Source : The Observer