World Hepatitis Day: Find the Missing Millions
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Are You One of the Missing Millions?
In Pakistan, 86% of people with HBV or HCV remain unaware of their infection.
By Shaukat Khanum Media Cell
“The only way you can find out if you or your loved ones are one of the missing millions is by getting tested for Hepatitis B and C. To mark the World Hepatitis Day, pledge to get screened from a reputable pathology laboratory.”
Worldwide, 325 million people are living with Hepatitis B and C—a potentially deadly disease. The Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) has a huge disease burden of Hepatitis B (17.5 million) and C (16 million). Unfortunately, Egypt and Pakistan carry almost 80% of the disease burden.
Hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death worldwide claiming 4,000 lives every day. Hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) becomes chronic in about 80% of the patients and thus contributes to morbidity and mortality. For those who are suffering from Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C for a long time, these viruses can cause liver cancer. According to the latest Shaukat Khanum Collective Cancer Registry Report, liver cancer is among the top 5 most common cancers seen in adults at its facilities since 1994.
It is tragic that 290 million out of 325 million (9 out of 10 people worldwide) are unaware that they are living with viral hepatitis. In Pakistan, 86% of people with HBV or HCV remain unaware of their infection and its consequences and risk transmitting the disease to their partners and families. This is the case because first, there are very few recognizable signs and symptoms for chronic hepatitis. You could have acquired it at childbirth passed from your mother or you may have got it through unsafe injection practices, by sharing a razor, or by coming into contact with infected blood. Second, there are many reasons why this disease is prevalent in a developing country like Pakistan that lacks a proper healthcare system; where there are no efficient pregnancy screening program or an effective mechanism to ensure all babies are vaccinated against HBV.
However, the situation is not entirely gloomy. A timely diagnosis can save lives. Cure is available for Hepatitis C and vaccines and treatment for Hepatitis B. All WHO member states have committed to a global reduction in hepatitis related deaths by 65% and new infections by 90% by 2030, making the global elimination of viral hepatitis a realistic goal. To achieve this, a crucial step is to find the missing millions with the help of dedicated efforts by all the stakeholders that include health-care professionals, patients, media, and policy-makers.
It is unfortunate but globally, challenges exist that prevent people from accessing diagnosis and testing such as lack of access to testing, the stigma and discrimination, lack of public awareness, and the cost. Despite these challenges, each country must work towards giving people access to testing and treatment or else, reaching the target of elimination will remain a dream. As admitted in the National Hepatitis Strategic Framework NHSF for Pakistan 2017-2021, the very basic hepatitis surveillance system is weak in our country owning to inadequate federal and provincial data which is crucial in developing and implementing effective strategies to fight this endemic.
As a responsible citizen, you can play your role in fighting hepatitis by fighting the stigma surrounding it and encouraging screening and vaccination among your loved ones. The only way you can find out for sure if you or your loved ones are one of the missing millions is by getting tested for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. To mark the World Hepatitis Day, pledge to get screened from a reputable pathology laboratory. For example, you can go to your closest Shaukat Khanum Laboratory Collection Centre and get tested. Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) is also providing free Hepatitis B and C testing for those who donate blood at their facilities. Shaukat Khanum Pathology Laboratory is one of the nation’s largest and most sophisticated facilities that uses state-of-the-art equipment for all tests, setting a standard for result accuracy and reliability. SKMT’s modern laboratory facility has a robust quality assurance and patient safety program and is registered with the College of American Pathologists for proficiency in testing and sustaining accuracy in results. For the convenience of the patients, laboratory test results can also be accessed online through www.shaukatkhanum.org.pk.
Together We Can #FindTheMissingMillions
Source of statistics and facts: www.hepatitisday.org, www.cancerresearchuk.org, National Hepatitis Strategic Framework for Pakistan 2017-2021