‘Silent killer’ Hepatitis is 3rd leading sexually transmitted infection in Guyana
Because it is not commonly known, Hepatitis clouds itself as a silent killer in being the third leading sexually transmitted infection (STI) in Guyana outside of HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Keisha Chin, the National STI Coordinator at the National Aids Programme (NAPS), in providing statistics on Tuesday revealed that almost 17% of all the STI cases logged at NAPS in 2019 belong to the Hepatitis B class.
But what really is Hepatitis?
In an interview with the News Room, Dr. Chin explained that the name refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of hepatitis which include autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
The STI can be transmitted through unprotected sex and from contaminated needles and syringes.
Dr Chin explained further that there are five main types of the hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D, and E. Together, Hepatitis B and C are the most common with 50 million people in South America living with Hepatitis B and 10 million living with Hepatitis C.
And a person may not even know that they are infected until it is too late.
With that in mind, NAPS will be engaging the general public with a series of activities that will kick start tomorrow in commemoration of World Hepatitis Day 2021, which is being held under the theme “Hepatitis can’t wait.”
According to Dr. Chin, NAPS has been making strides as it relates to the treatment options available to infected persons. She was happy to report that only recently, NAPS received approval for its National Treatment Guidelines for chronic Hepatitis B to further boost its services. Those guidelines will now provide a base for standardised treatment options and accurate screening regulations for persons with hepatitis and also providing training to health workers across the country.
“With that approval, we will be rolling out those guidelines throughout the nation and we will be allowing physicians and other categories of health care workers…so you can go to any part of the country and access these services, be it coastland or hinterland,” Dr. Chin noted.
Further, persons can access testing services at any health center across the country and also at the National Reference Lab. The hepatitis test, however, extends beyond the disease as the medical technicians will provide insight into your liver functions as well.
Dr. Chin then went on to encourage persons to not let a positive test result seem very daunting as it does not mean that “life ends.”
“You just don’t get a test, receive your results and that’s it…you get advice, you get treatment and you get to live,” she noted.
This year’s World Hepatitis Day celebration aims at conveying the urgency of efforts needed to eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
The campaign specifically aims to increase early testing and treatment to reduce the risk of liver cancer, using the tagline, “Seek Hep. Seek Help. Get Tested Today”.