A consultant gastroenterologist with the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi, Abuja, Dr Okorie Michael Chidiebere has urged the Federal Government to as a matter of equity, give free treatment to Hepatitis patients, as they do for their HIV and other viral disease counterparts.
It was reported that Hepatitis: Hepatitis has caused about 1.4 million lives; B and C affect 325 million people and that there were about 290 undiagnosed carriers globally, who didn’t know their status. To create awareness about its danger, World Hepatitis Day (WHD) is organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is marked globally every 28 July and the theme for the one of year 2020 was, “Find the Missing Millions.”
The gastroenterologist addressed journalists recently in his office.
“I advise the FG to do more, because not much has been done in the area of Hepatitis. Its patients are suffering; being discriminated against and stigmatised.
“When you compare Hepatitis patients with the HIV patients, you find out that HIV patients are preferentially treated and I don’t know why. There are some investigations you do for the HIV and Hepatitis patients, the HIV patients get the investigations free, while Hepatitis patients pay.
“For example, the government pays for viral load for HIV patients, while Hepatitis patient pays for theirs. I don’t know the rationale behind that. If you come to the drugs they use, HIV patients are given them free, but Hepatitis patients buy theirs. So I urge the FG to treat Hepatitis patients as they treat other viral diseases’ patients.”
To Nigerians, he advised: “Get tested to know your status. If positive, seek expert care, not quacks care, because some people parade themselves as experts and patients go for them due to the financial implications and such patients usually come back at last with complications. If a patient comes here for treatment, there are some tests he will do before i make any prescription. But if you are negative, go for vaccination, because there is vaccination for Hepatitis B, there is none for C.”
Still reiterating the need for the FG to be treating the infection freely, as is being done for similar others, he said they usually create awareness about the disease in communities, adding that some who test positive, they usually bring down to the hospital, but regretted that some usually stop coming up for treatment due to huge financial implications involved.
On its cure, the consultant said: “It depends on the type of Hepatitis you are talking about because; Hepatitis as we all know is inflammation of the liver. It can be from any cause. It can be as a result of: alcohol, drugs, viral Hepatitis.
“So if it is as a result of alcohol, the cure lies with the patient who is taking alcohol. At any time he decides to stop taking alcohol, he will be free from it.
“Then if it is as a result of drugs, the patient has to avoid those drugs. But I am sure that what you were referring to was that, that is as a result of virus. Now if you come to that one, there are different types of viral Hepatitis that are as a result of Hepatitis.
“There are Hepatitis A, B,C,D and E. For A, there is no much problem. Within days to week, the person gets off it. But for B and C, that is where there is problem, with respect to B as it is. Hepatitis C has a cure, okay. You can take care of it within three to six months, depending on the stage which the patient is presented. But Hepatitis B is a beat complex, because it is not as straight forward as C.”