An Asia-Pacific group calls Bangladesh to ‘act now’ against viral hepatitis

An Asia-Pacific group calls Bangladesh to ‘act now’ against viral hepatitis

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An Asia-Pacific group that dreams of a hepatitis free world has called upon Bangladesh government to take “concrete steps” towards eliminating the killer liver disease.The Singapore-based Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific (CEVHAP) gave the call on Tuesday — the World Hepatitis Day. It said simple but smart measures can save thousands of lives from this silent epidemic.Viral hepatitis particularly hepatitis B and C affects more than 15 million people in Bangladesh a year, and kill about 20,000 of them –more than malaria, TB and cholera deaths put together.“Yet most people know little about viral hepatitis,” the Asia-Pacific group in a statement said.Dr Mamun-Al-Mahtab Shwapnil who is the Bangladesh point person of the group told bdnews24.com that “people still go to faith healers or spiritual healers and take pani pora (blessed water) or dab pora (blessed coconut water) to be cured (from hepatitis)”.“We need to destroy these myths,” said Dr Shwapnil, an associate professor of hepatology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
He said their motto was to inspire the governments to take action now. “Now is the time”.He along with the two co-chairs of the coalition Prof Stephen Locarnini of North Melbourne’s Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Australia, and Prof Ding-Shinn Chen of the National Taiwan University College of Medicine, issued the statement for Bangladesh.Dr Shwapnil said they tried to draw government’s attention through media that “hepatitis requires urgent attention”.Similar statements had been issued in many other countries of this region, he said.They picked the world hepatitis day for a “stark reminder of the mounting challenges posed by viral hepatitis –particularly hepatitis B and C –in Bangladesh”.But simple solutions could make “a big difference”.For example, unsafe injection practices are responsible for many of the new infections of hepatitis B or C virus in Bangladesh.
Avoiding reuse of syringes could reduce the number of people infected by hepatitis C by over 1.5 million, and those infected by hepatitis B by close to 280,000.“Some of these steps will be small, some big – but all will require political commitment, smart allocation of available resources, and a better understanding of the ‘silent epidemic’ which we talk so little about.“But now is the time to start putting into place concrete steps towards the elimination of viral hepatitis from our society,” read the statement.This year, the WHO included the latest hepatitis treatments in their ‘Model List of Essential Medicines’ as a signal to governments that they should make them available to those who need them.However, many medicines were expensive beyond the reach of most in Bangladesh.Dr Shwapnil said the government can help reduce the price by lifting import tax and VAT on these costly drugs.At the same time, he said, efforts must be made to stop the spread of the disease, ensure screening of the people at risk and treatment to those affected.Unsafe blood, unsafe injections, and sharing drug-injection equipment can all result in hepatitis infection.Effective medicines are there to treat and cure hepatitis B and C.The National Liver Foundation of Bangladesh (NLFB) organised a roundtable titled, ‘Hepatitis and Our Duties’, at the Daily Star auditorium with president of the Bangladesh Diabetic Samity (BDS) Prof AK Azad Khan in the chair.NLFB Secretary General Professor Mohammad Ali presented the key note paper while founder president of Kidney foundation Harun Ur Rashid, Gynaecology and Obstetrics Professor T A Chowdhury were present.”Viral hepatitis – a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E – affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic liver disease and killing close to 1.5 million people every year, mostly from hepatitis B and C. These infections can be prevented, but most people don’t know how,” said Prof AK Azad Khan.The speakers stressed the importance of mass awareness to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. They said majority of the infected people were unaware, undiagnosed and untreated due to lack of awareness.Emphasising the need of increasing awareness, health experts said despite its staggering toll on health, hepatitis remains a group of diseases that are largely unknown, undiagnosed and untreated.

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