Nearly 20 million Nigerians are infected with Hepatitis B or C, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has said.
He stated this in Abuja on Monday during the launch of the national strategic framework for viral hepatitis and the flag-off ceremony of a nationwide hepatitis awareness campaign, in commemoration of this year’s World Hepatitis Day themed ‘Bringing Hepatitis Care Closer to You’.
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The minister said there was very low awareness about the infections.
He said the infections were under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated; while stigma and discrimination against those infected also posed challenges.
The World Health Organisation, Nigeria Representative, Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said in Africa, Nigeria had one of the highest burdens of viral hepatitis with a national hepatitis B prevalence rate of 8.1 per cent and a hepatitis C prevalence rate of 1.1 per cent among adults aged 15-64 years.
He said by introducing the hepatitis B birth dose and the pentavalent vaccine into routine childhood immunization schedules in 2004, Nigeria was contributing to the global achievement of the reduction of hepatitis B infections in children.
He urged Nigeria to mobilise domestic funds for a national hepatitis B and C treatment programme.
Oliver Stolpe, Country Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said to effectively raise awareness about hepatitis care, the focus should be on vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations such as people injecting drugs as well as people in custodial centres and other closed settings “because the prevalence of HCV is higher in prisons compared to the general populations” .