Considering the need to create awareness among the masses on the issues surrounding viral hepatitis amidst the prevailing chaotic situation in the, Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE) conducted a poster campaign carrying the message of the benefits of early testing, vaccination, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis B and C on Thursday in Imphal.
The poster campaign which was held as part of the World Hepatitis Day (WHD)-2023 observance was conducted in different departments of Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) and Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) including Model Treatment Centres (MTCs), Outpatient Departments (OPDs) and ART centres, Nalinikanta Rajkumar, president, CoNE said in a release.
This year the World Hepatitis Day will be launched with the call to action ‘We’re not waiting’. On the occasion, CoNE aims to accelerate the fight against viral hepatitis, one of the most deadly and neglected diseases and health crises – one that is claiming a life every 30 seconds, Nalinikanta said.
The president informed that the poster campaign has been conducted by CoNE to raise awareness on viral hepatitis so that people get access to Hepatitis Ba and C testing, vaccination, diagnosis and treated available under the National Viral Hepatitis Control Program which is being implemented in the state since 2019 by opening two model treatment centres (MTCs) at RIMS and JNIMS and treatment centres in all the 16 districts of the state.
Citing new research presented at the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) Congress by the Centre for Disease Analysis (CDA) Foundation, RK Nalinikanta said that the research found that hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) viruses are highly oncogenic leading to cancers in multiple organs and sites. The report also said that hepatitis B and C infected individuals have a similar or significantly higher risk of developing cancer than someone who actively smokes one pack of cigarettes per day. It concludes that HBV and HCV should be considered as cancer causing infections and international guidelines should be reconsidered accordingly, he added.
A recent survey from World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) also found that 42 per cent of people globally are unaware that one of the leading causes of liver cancer is viral hepatitis. Nearly three quarters (74%) of those surveyed say knowing hepatitis causes liver cancer means they are more likely to get tested and over four fifths (82 per cent) say they are more likely to get vaccinated.
Globally, over 350 million people live with hepatitis B or C, causing more than 1.1 million lives to be lost each year. By 2040, deaths from viral hepatitis are expected to exceed mortality from HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis combined, he added.
Informing that hepatitis B and C infections are silent epidemics and are cancer causing, Nalinikanta said that since infected individuals don’t show any symptoms until it is too late, most infections go unnoticed. Therefore, it is important to understand the high risk of cancer associated with hepatitis B and C infection and get patients linked to care under the national programme.
Since treatment can reduce the risk of cancer by 85 per cent or more, Nalinikanta appealed to all to come out and avail the services under the national programme, get tested and treated early.
The poster campaign will continue in other districts targeting private hospitals and clinics.