About 20 million Nigerians are chronically infected with Hepatitis B virus due to lack of access to screening and diagnosis, according to the Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Nigeria (SOGHIN).
In a communiqué issued at the end of its 10th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Session at Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital (EKSUTH) and Afe Babalola University (ABUAD), SOGHIN revealed that majority of Nigerians cannot afford the cost of investigations and treatment.
SOGHIN is an umbrella body for medical specialists in different aspects of alimentary tract and related systems of the body. These include specialists in diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the upper and lower alimentary tract, liver, gall bladder, pancreas like pathologists, radiologists, physicians and surgeons.
In the communiqué signed by SOGHIN National President, Prof. Musa Borodo and Secretary General, Dr. Casmir Omuemu, SOGHIN observed that most cases of liver cancer in Nigeria occurred in young to middle-aged individuals with the males predominantly affected and the most common cause is chronic Hepatitis B infection.
It said: “A lot of quackery and misinformation about viral Hepatitis abound in the country; while government is commended for the establishment of a viral Hepatitis Control Programme as well as viral Hepatitis Strategic Plan 2016-2020, all efforts must be channeled to actualise the aspirations in an organised fashion.
“Government at all levels, corporate organisations and non-governmental organisations should, as a matter of urgency, pay more attention to the control of viral Hepatitis in Nigeria.
“Government should expeditiously provide specific budgetary allocation and appropriation for the control of viral Hepatitis in Nigeria. This will promote access screening and diagnosis.”
SOGHIN therefore advocated the establishment of a National Digestive Centre as a matter of urgency to promote greater access to treatment of gastrointestinal and Hepatology diseases and research in the country.
It also recommended that cancer treatment should be incorporated into the existing National Health Insurance Scheme to reduce the huge cost of managing patients with gastrointestinal and hepatology cancers.