Rwanda commissions study on hepatitis B prevalence

Rwanda's Ministry of Health is conducting research to determine the prevalence of hepatitis B virus in the country.

There is currently no data on the status and prevalence of the disease in Rwanda. As recently as five years ago, treatment for hepatitis B was not available there, the New Times reports.

Emmanuel Musabeyezu, a doctor with King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, said that the research will help health policy planners to determine what interventions to make for hepatitis B.

The virus has infected more than 300 million people worldwide. Hepatitis B can be passed on through the exchange of bodily fluids, sexual intercourse, during delivery from an infected mother to her baby, and through the use of non-sterilized medical equipment and injections.

"People who are sexually active and not infected should be vaccinated against the disease," Musabeyezu said, according to the New Times. "The vaccine was introduced in Rwanda 10 years ago and is available at health facilities so people should utilize it."

Health officials said that hepatitis B treatment is expensive and that negotiations are underway to reduce the price so more people in Rwanda can afford it.

"Treatment for this disease is very expensive," Martha Ingabire, a patient infected with hepatitis B, said, according to the New Times. "My only hope is that the concerned authorities find a way of helping us get this medication at an affordable cost."

Ingabire said that Rwandans should go for vaccinations, screening and testing to get treatment before the disease reaches its advanced stages. Hepatitis B can cause patients to develop chronic hepatitis, liver cancer and other complications, the New Times reports.