The Ghana Association for the Study of Liver and Digestive Diseases (GASLIDD), together with the La Dade Kotopon Municipal Health Directorate, has held a free Hepatitis B & C screening and vaccination for the La community.
The screening, which took place last Wednesday did not only screen and vaccinate the people for hepatitis but also checked for malaria, diabetes, blood pressure and sugar levels with help from the Hepatitis Society of Ghana and Roche Pharmaceutical Company.
The event, on the theme: “Bringing hepatitis care closer to communities - Help can’t wait,” sought to target about 200 members in the La Dade Kotopon Municipal Assembly (LaDMA), educate them on the dangers, transmission and treatment of the virus, with doctors and nurses from the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, La General Hospital (La Polyclinic) and Ridge Hospital treating them.
A gastroenterologist at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital, Dr Sally Afua Bampoh, said July 28 was designated as World Hepatitis Day and as part of the event, the hospital was engaging in media advocacy, screening and meetings.
Dr Bampoh noted that the association contacted several district health directorates and realised that the LaDMA had a need for it due to the percentage of hepatitis even though such a programme had never been held there.
Usually, she said such communities had screening for hypertension, diabetes, among other diseases, and stressed the need for the screening and vaccination of hepatitis to take place in such a densely populated area.
She said two medical doctors would be placed in charge of the hepatitis clinic at the La Polyclinic.
Dr Bampoh, who is also the chairperson of the planning committee for GASLIDD, said the association and the Ghana Health Service would establish a hepatitis clinic at the La Polyclinic to continue with the care of patients who turned positive for the virus at the screening.
She mentioned that gastroenterologists were not many in the country and gave the assurance that the association would train other colleagues to run the clinic in their respective communities without referring patients to the big hospitals.
The President of GASLIDD, Prof. Yaw Asante Awuku, said one in 30 Ghanaians had Hepatitis C and one in eight Ghanaians had Hepatitis B, which he contributed to the main cause of liver diseases in the country.
He said Hepatitis B and C constituted about 80 per cent of liver diseases in Ghana, saying: “If we are able to vaccinate the people and eliminate the virus, it will mean that liver cancer will reduce considerably in our part of the world.”
Although hepatitis could lead to liver damage and cancer, he said, the virus was vaccine-preventable and that the rise of liver cancer in the country was due to late testing.
He added that the virus was transmitted through sexual contact, sharing of needles, syringes or other drug-injection equipment, or from mother to baby at birth.
The Health Promotion Officer at LaDMA Health Directorate, Ellen Kwarteng Amponsah, said testing for the hepatitis virus cost about GH¢15 and above and the vaccine was GH¢35.
She explained that the vaccination needed to be taken three times in one’s lifetime.
Madam Amponsah noted that after getting the vaccination, the community member would need to visit the clinic in a month’s time for the second dose and again in six months’ time for the last shot.