KAMPALA, Uganda — In Uganda, the prevalence of hepatitis B — a viral infection that can cause a chronic infection, cirrhosis, and liver cancer if not managed — stands at 4.3% of the population. Of this number, more than half endure a lifetime of exposure to the disease. This figure excludes children, yet hepatitis B is predominantly contracted under the age of 5.
Dr. Opeto Moses, a medical officer and general practitioner in the gastroenterology clinic at the Mulago National Referral Hospital, said that 80% of the patients he sees have hepatitis B. Most of them have been referred from different facilities, yet the diagnosis takes many by surprise, he said.
Despite the high prevalence at this hospital, in general, diagnosis rates remain low worldwide, at 9%. The World Health Organization has set a target, as part of the first “Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, 2016-2020,” to increase that to 30% by 2020 and 90% by 2030.
There are many challenges to achieving such targets, but Uganda is already making great strides toward them and, according to the scorecard created by WHO to examine hepatitis prevalence, readiness, and response in the Africa region, the country is leading prevention efforts.
Read on to find out more about the steps Uganda is taking to improve the diagnosis and detection of hepatitis B.