By Willy Ngumbi

With the global target of eradicating hepatitis being the reduction of incidence of  hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) by 90% and mortality by 65% by 2030, Kenya is making significant progress to reach this goal.

One of the strategies the country has put in place is vaccination of children. According to Dr. Juliana Muiva, gastroenterologist, Kenyatta National hospital, the younger the person the severe the HBV, that is why vaccination for children is very important.

Speaking during the commemoration of World Hepatitis Day in Nairobi, Dr. Muiva noted that screening of pregnant women is also a policy that has enabled reduction of transmitting HBV from mother to child. This has made it possible for trained hepatitis specialists to identify mothers with HBV infection, diagnose and treat them to prevent transmitting the hepatitis virus to the child during delivery.

Dr. Muiva during the celebration of World Hepatitis Day

Additionally, the implementation of needle and syringe programme to ensure that only a single needle or syringe is used for one patient has been crucial in reduction of  hepatitis infection, this is because they are key instruments in transmission of these diseases as well as HIV/AIDS.

Leonard Otieno, strategic information systems, World Health Organization(WHO)-Kenya observed that with support from a number of stakeholders and partners, hepatitis medication in Kenya has become more affordable at prices as low as USD 60 per patient. This has helped a lot of people affected with viral hepatitis infection to get treatment in Kenya.

Through the partnership between the Ministry of health, WHO, Support for Addictions Prevention and Treatment in Africa(SAPTA)  and National AIDS & STI Control Program(NASCOP) persons who inject drugs(PWIDs) are able to be diagnosed and treated for hepatitis.

PWIDs account for 12% to 15.6% of people with HCV in the country, this is because of sharing needles and syringes, the main transmission mode of the disease in the group.

Richard Wanjohi,a beneficiaries of the programme and survivor of HCV said that he was among the first people to benefit from the programme, where he underwent three months of daily treatment as well as psychosocial support.

Testing during the celebration of World Hepatitis Day in Nairobi

According to Dr. Simon Kibias, Acting Head Directorate of health standards quality assurance and regulation, the Ministry of health vows to act on: raising awareness for hepatitis, promoting partnership, mobilizing resources for treatment of hepatitis, formulating evidence based policy and data for action and preventing transmission and scaling up screening, care and treatment services.

In addition, he said, “If we are to eliminate Hepatitis by 2030 we need to reduce new infections of hepatitis B and C and reduce deaths from liver cancer.”

Despite this progress, treatment of hepatitis is focused in urban areas and cities, thus limiting people in rural areas from accessing it. Currently, the counties leading in HBV are found in rural settings including  Baringo, Turkana and Migori, which were found to have more than 10% of HBV infections accounting for 11.9%, 16.8% and 10% respectively of those infected in the country.