World Hepatitis Day is commemorated on 28th July every year to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and this year’s theme, “One Life, One Liver” highlights the importance of the liver for a healthy life, and the need to scale up testing and treatment of viral hepatitis to prevent liver disease and achieve the 2030 elimination goals.
As part of the activities marking the celebration, the Hepatitis-Malarial (HEPMAL) Project at the Institute in collaboration with the Okyeame Kwame (O.K). Foundation, MDS Lancet Laboratories Ghana Limited and the Madina Health Directorate of the Ghana Health Service organised free hepatitis B and C screening, hepatitis B vaccination, haemoglobin check and malaria screening at the Madina STC Yard within the La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal District.
A trader receiving hepatitis screening
The exercise formed part of the Institute’s response to the global call to accelerate hepatitis testing and treatment, recognising that everyone, everywhere has just ‘One Life’ and ‘One Liver’.
Prof. Kofi Bonney, Associate Professor of Virology and a Co-Investigator on the Project, explained that the importance of public education on viral hepatitis cannot be overemphasized hence, the commemoration of World Hepatitis Day every year is significant as far as diseases of public health is concerned.
According to Prof. Bonney, there is the need for constant sensitization to increase public awareness of viral hepatitis, and also for the public to know their hepatitis status through the screening exercises. This will ensure early detection and treatment which is important to prevent the spread of the disease and its associated issues.
“The essence of celebrating this day is to create awareness about viral hepatitis, help people know their status, and most importantly, encourage them to get tested and vaccinated if found negative. We selected the Madina STC Yard for this screening and vaccination exercise because we needed an area where we could have a significant number of people being screened and vaccinated. What we have realized is that most people in the market have little or no time to even check on their health status. This necessitated that we bring healthcare to them on such an important day”, Prof. Bonney said.
Dr. Priscilla Animah Poku, Municipal Health Director La Nkwantanang Madina who was also involved in the screening exercise, said the liver is crucial organ of the human system that must not be taken for granted.
Dr. Animah Poku explained that when the liver is compromised, one faces severe health complications. She said “the presence of NMIMR, O. K Foundation and MDS Lancet on this significant day shows how committed they are to educate people about viral hepatitis and the urgent need to get tested and vaccinated if found negative. This is a good way and platform to for us to create the awareness about the disease and advised people to use this opportunity take action against this silent killer”, she reiterated.
A beneficiary receiving counselling
During the exercise, Mr. Kwame Nsiah-Apau, Ghanaian musician popularly known in showbiz as Okyeame Kwame, gave some remarks and explained that the collaboration between the three bodies is to have greater impact and continuously raise awareness about the disease.
Using his artistry as a platform, Okyeame Kwame has been advocating for a healthier liver and a world free of hepatitis.
“I organise a 30-day social media campaign before 28th July. Aside that, I organise benefit concert for hepatitis, seminars, visit different schools for free hepatitis screening and vaccination. Our commitment highlights on all areas such as advocacy, policy and collaboration. The key thing is that, through our social media campaigns, support from partners and collaborations, we will have a world free of hepatitis”, he said.
Cross-section view of beneficiaries at the screening and vaccination grounds together with Okyeame Kwame
The screening and vaccination exercise was successful with about five hundred (500) people within the La Nkwantanang Madina Municipal District benefitting.
Group photograph of Prof. Kusi and Prof. Bonney together with the team
Prior to the commemoration day, the Institute collaborated with O.K Foundation and MDS-Lancet to organise the second edition of the Hepatitis Awareness Health Quiz.
The Quiz which seeks to educate Junior High Schools about hepatitis and raise awareness about the disease while fostering healthy academic rivalry among Junior High Schools had sixteen (16) schools within the Ayawaso West Municipality competing for the grand prize.
There was huge interest in the competition which started on 6th July, 2023, with students and teachers in the following schools taking part: Abelemkpe 1 Basic, Abelemkpe 2 Basic, Covenant Presby, Dzorwulu JHS, Roman Ridge M/A, Little Flower Montessori, Bethany Methodist Basic, Elican JHS, Hope Givers International School, Accra College Demonstration School, Queens International School, University Staff Village JHS, Bawaleshie 1 JHS, Bawaleshie 2 JHS, Espo Best Child JHS and Faith Presby School.
Having displayed much academic prowess, Espo Best Child JHS emerged winners at the grand finale held on 21st July, 2023 at the Institute’s Conference Hall after keen contest which featured Covenant Presby JHS, Abelemkpe 2 Basic and University Staff Village JHS.
Espo Best Child JHS wins second edition of Hepatitis Awareness Health Quiz
About HEPMAL Project
Malaria and viral hepatitis due to Hepatitis B virus (HBV) are two very common infectious diseases prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and together account for significant morbidity and mortality.
In Ghana, half a million more cases of malaria were recorded in 2019, representing an 8% increase over the previous year (WMR 2019). Globally, Ghana and 10 other countries account for 70% of the global estimated case burden, as well as 71% of estimated deaths (WMR 2019)
The common organ targeted by both Plasmodium and HBV is the liver. Sporozoites from an infectious mosquito bite first invade, develop and multiply in liver cells, while HBV also targets the liver and causes a prolonged infection that may result in liver cancer or cirrhosis.
Inevitably, there are instances where the causative organisms of these diseases co-infect individuals in the general population. Differences in immune responses to these pathogens means that chronic HBV infections can affect liver stage malaria-specific T cell responses, while Plasmodium infection could also contribute to liver pathology in chronic HBV-infected subjects. The effect of these interactions are especially important in the future context of administering an approved malaria vaccine in HBV-endemic populations of sub-Saharan Africa, as routine administration of vaccines to chronic HBV-infected persons may not yield the expected immunization outcomes.
The overall goal of the proposed study is therefore to investigate and define the by-stander effects of an on-going chronic HBV infection on immune responses to Plasmodium liver stage infection. We will also assess whether a Plasmodium liver stage infection affects chronic HBV infection outcome in co-infected individuals.
Read more about HEPMAL at https://hepmal.web.app/