Home Feature Special Report: Hepatitis B a silent killer in West Nile

Special Report: Hepatitis B a silent killer in West Nile


Mathew Bandale was diagnosed with Hepatitis B, in Arua, 12 years ago. He can’t tell exactly how much he has spent in medication, he has suffered, he recounts his ugly experience with the disease.
“I got to know of my status when I went to test for the disease at Arua Regional Referral Hospital. I was discovered with liver cirrhosis with viral load of over 10,600,000 and my liver size had reduced drastically,” he said
Adding, “I felt so bad and thought I was going to die. However I embarked on regular checkups in the hospital where I was put on ARVs which I started taking every day up to date,”
To extend his surviival, Bandale says he had to adjust his diet.
“I manage my diet strictly, I stopped eating fresh meat, milk and eggs but I mainly do green vegetables and fruits. I also exercise regularly through digging gardens which also helps me produce the greens I eat. These care and management habits have helped me regain my health. My viral load is now below 50, my liver is back to the normal size and I feel I am now out of danger,”

Mathew Bandale, Hepatitis B Survivor (Photos by By Martin Bileni )

Statistics from African Health Sciences, Makerere Medical School indicated that 1.4 million Ugandans were chronically infected with Hepatitis B by 2015.

Dr. Aldo Pariyo, a senior physician at Arua Regional Referral Hospital, also the proprietor Pioneer medical facilities says the Hepatitis B cases are estimated to be at 600 in West Nile region alone, mith more registered at Adjumani Hepatitis B clinic and Arua hospital Hepatitis B clinic all registering about 2000 cases annually.
Unlike Bandale and few others who have managed to live for quite some times, others lost the battle.
Peace Comfort Mayokia at her mid-20s, is a widow. Her husband succumbed to hepatis B a year ago last year.
“After his death I now fear to associate freely with people because some mock me for becoming a widow at such a young age of mine. My humble appeal is people should take hepatitis B issues seriously,” she said

Peace Comfort Mayokia, widow to a man that died of Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus has been identified as one the leading silent killer disease in west Nile, with the highest prevalence rate in the whole country. Two out of ten persons in the region are believed to be living with the virus.
Dr. Pariyo, attributes the high hepatitis B prevalence in west Nile and Northern Uganda in general to lack of adherence to practices and standards set for care and management of the disease.
He says lifestyle of the locals such as eating and drinking from common joints, exposure of children to sexual activities too early and poor health seeking behaviors of the locals are some of the leading causes.
Dr Pariyo, one of specialists managing Hepatis B patients in the region laments that many people who test positive do not show up for regular checkups and treatment but only reappear with liver failure and other complications.
“Hepatitis B is spread through contact and is very contagious. It can be spread through exchange of saliva. So those who use the same straws at malwa joints, kissing and eating in common pool are at high risk of contracting and spreading the disease,” he said

Dr. Aldo Pariyo in a live interview in his office.

He asserts that Hepatitis B can be treated although it is incurable and one big problem is everyone now wants to treat Hepatitis B.
“That is not correct because this is a specialty disease, we are not going to put it for everybody. Some people will mess it up. I advise our people to go to appropriate places where they can be offered a holistic evidence-based care for Hepatitis B.” Dr Aldo Pariyo Stresses,”
Twalib Feni the chief Executive Director for West Nile Civil Society Network argues that the government and development partners are not doing enough to equip the public with vital information to fight the disease.
He adds that stigmatization remains the biggest challenge in the fight against Hepatis B.
“I appeal to those living positive with the disease to come out and form networks to support each other and the community should also desist from stigmatizing these people.” Twalib Feni Emphasizes.
Ms Mayokia says lack of psychosocial support to those living with hepatitis B is among the major cause for their early deaths.
“When community members heard that my husband was ill of hepatitis B, they asked me to abandon him and plan to immediately remarry. But I decided to take my late husband to the hospital where the medics really gave us a lot of emotional support. I was left to attend to my husband alone,” she said,
Bandale advises his fellow sick victims not to give up but take up the free services the government has put in place to save lives of people.

Pioneer Hospital Arua, one of the Hepatis B treatments Centres in Arua City Photos:

“I thank the government and partners for putting in place these services to save lives of Ugandans,” he said.
Government, 10 years ago ran a massive campaign on testing and vaccination against Hepatitis B in the country and has now put in place mandatory vaccination of all new born babies against the virus in the various health facilities across the country.
According to current World Health Organization (WHO) records, approximately 1.5 million people become newly infected with Hepatis B each year.
Almost 300 million people are chronically infected. Approximately two people across the globe die each minute from hepatitis B and related complications such as liver cancer, according to WHO.

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