Experts in sub-Sahara Africa join forces with MSD to battle Hepatitis C

On June 18, the first of a series of meetings called “Hepatitis in Africa – Call for Action”, took place in Lagos, Nigeria to raise awareness on the burden of Hepatitis C in sub-Sahara Africa among stakeholders. Objectives of the program were engaging and building a relationship among scientific leaders, patient representatives and ministry of health officials from the participating countries to develop national and regional activity plans. During this event stakeholders for the combat against HCV ranging from clinicians, physician body representatives, patient groups and policy makers were converging to take a unified call for a plan of action towards hepatitis policy formation to battle Hepatitis C.  Among the participating countries were Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.

Overview of Initiative

The addition of World Hepatitis Day by the World Health Organization to the list of mandated health awareness days heralds the growing international awareness of hepatitis as a global health care issue. This realization is one that cannot come too soon, as several aspects of hepatitis characterize it as one of the most serious infectious disease challenges facing public health care today.

Amongst the viral hepatitis concerns, the hepatitis C virus (HCV) provides unique challenges like an acute phase that is generally asymptomatic and under-diagnosed; a chronic phase with a long latency period before development of life-threatening, difficult to treat complications; genetic polymorphism and the lack of a vaccine. Globally over 185 million people are believed to be afflicted with HCV. In Africa alone, the WHO estimates that the prevalence is 5.3% (1).

Focus Scientific Research Center (FSRC), a physician-led team of researchers, in association with the program sponsor MSD, a global healthcare leader, and a range of collaborators both regional and international are currently working on an initiative to create awareness about hepatitis with the main focus on HCV. The program – “Hepatitis in Africa – Call for Action”, intends to raise disease awareness among the relevant stakeholders in the region. Objectives of the program include but are not limited to engaging and building a relationship with scientific leaders, patient representatives and ministry of health officials from each country to form a regional expert group, and developing national and regional activity plans. The initiative intends to lay the foundation for the development of country-specific activity roadmaps with the involvement of local stakeholders for effective management of HCV.

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