The Nation (Pakistan) (07.29.2013)
Aids Weekly Plus
This past weekend, Pakistan joined the global observation of World Hepatitis Day to increase viral hepatitis awareness, preventative efforts, and access to treatment. Pakistan estimates 16 million residents had contracted hepatitis, mostly through injections and needle sharing.
The worldwide theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day was “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil,” which emphasized the need to stop globally ignoring the disease. Event organizers stressed the need to involve communities by raising awareness, promoting partnership, and mobilizing resources. According to Dr. Farina Hanif of Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), the theme “refers to those who deal with the problem by refusing to acknowledge it. This theme was chosen to highlight that hepatitis is being ignored around the world.” Approximately 200 participants joined together in a global attempt to break the previous Guinness Book of World Records tally for the most people performing the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” pantomime of covering of their eyes, ears, and mouths.
While speaking Sunday at a hepatitis B health awareness seminar, SIUT Director Adib Rizvi indicated that approximately 15 million Pakistanis suffer from hepatitis B and C. He urged the government to develop a comprehensive plan to avert millions of deaths.
Dr. Zaigham Abbass of SIUT’s gastroenterology department discussed the method of transmission of viral hepatitis. He explained that hepatitis A and E are transmitted through oral and fecal routes while B and C spread through blood.
Reports have shown that the major reason for Pakistan’s high hepatitis rate is needle use, with approximately 30 percent of the population receiving at least 10 injections every year. Many people received injections for therapeutic reasons; hepatitis can be spread from the reuse of syringes, inadequate sterilization techniques, or hospital waste management systems. Unsafe blood transfusions also contribute to spreading the virus.
A survey of 47,043 persons by the Pakistan Medical and Research council revealed a 2.4-percent hepatitis B prevalence rate and a 4.9-percent hepatitis C rate. The World Health Organization, working with the Provincial Hepatitis Control Programmes, identified a total of 30 Pakistani districts that needed immediate attention to stop the spread of the disease.
Dr. Saeed Hamid, from Agha Khan University, said that vaccines and treatment for hepatitis B and C that could save millions of lives exist, but the Pakistani government needed to make them more easily available.