World Hepatitis Day commemoration in Kenya

Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO) in collaboration with Médecins du Monde (MDM) and Support for Addiction Prevention and Treatment in Africa (SAPTA) led over 200 advocates in commemorating World Hepatitis Day in Nairobi, Kenya on July 26th, 2013.

The partners organized a peaceful procession from Kenyatta National Hospital, to National AIDS & STI Control Programme (NASCOP) and then to Mbagathi District Hospital.

The aim of the procession was to raise awareness about Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs (PWID) and the burden of Hepatitis infection. Further, the advocates hoped to engage with NASCOP to work out methods of cooperation and on how to offer HCV services in the health facilities.

While addressing the advocates, KANCO board member Dr. Reverend Mambo noted that HCV is a major concern in Kenya, especially with PWID. “We need to take note of the dangers of HCV as it is very common and rampant among PWID.”

Esther from SAPTA further reiterated the dangers of injecting drugs in relation to HCV. It is a deadly combination of HCV, injectable drugs and alcohol. “As much as we provide NSP, it is not to encourage drug use, we do this to minimize infections like HIV and AIDS and HCV which may be transmitted through sharing of needles, although also through sex with an infected person or sharing of personal items contaminated with infectious blood, but these are less common.

Annually, 3–4 million people are infected with the Hepatitis C virus which is preventable. About 185 million people are chronically infected and at risk of developing liver cirrhosis and/or liver cancer. More than 350, 000 people die from Hepatitis C-related liver diseases every year.

The estimated prevalence of HCV in Africa is 5.3%. Hepatitis C has become among the leading cause of death of people living with HIV (PLHIV). With the prevalence of HIV/AIDS as high as 46% among PWID, HCV is also a key concern as no major advocacy and interventions have been put in place in the country to curb the disease.

Very limited access to harm reduction services and particularly to HCV test and diagnostics, limited knowledge of HCV, especially among PWID, social and legal discrimination towards PWID prevent access to prevention and care, which leads to a hidden epidemic of Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs.

Sylvia Ayon from KANCO thanked all the participants of the procession and urged on the government to put in place measures to address the plight of PWID. “There are nine service area interventions which have been approved by WHO. These service interventions aim to improve the quality of lives for PWID”.

The service interventions approved by WHO are needle and syringe programme, opioid substitution therapy, HIV testing and voluntary counselling, antiretroviral therapy, sexually transmitted infections prevention and treatment, condoms, targeted information, education and communication for PWID through outreach, viral hepatitis diagnosis, treatment and vaccination and tuberculosis prevention, diagnostics and treatment.