By Tapela Morapedi
The Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dr Motswedi Anderson on Monday 10thFebruary 2020 launched her research project on Hepatitis B Virus titled “HepBZero: #Silent No More” at the University of Botswana Student Centre. This is on a background of increasing incidence and prevalence of Hepatitis B virus infection and associated complications globally.
The main objectives ofthe study are:
- To assess knowledge on Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) among 18-40 year adults in Botswana.
- To create awareness of HBV infection in an effort to reduce morbidity and mortality due to Viral Hepatitis
The study is being conducted collaboratively between BHP and the University of Botswana’s Department of Student Welfare. Launching the Study, The University of Botswana acting Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) for Student Affairs, Prof Happy Siphambe said the study was a welcome development as HBV chronically infects 257 million people globally and accounts for 887 000 deaths.
Sixty (60) study participants divided into 4 groups of 15 members each were recruited randomly from UB, the country’s leading institution of higher learning. Prof Siphambe hailed the partnership declaring that the collaborative work shall result in outcomes that will enhance knowledge on HBV transmission, pathogenesis, treatment and research amongst the student community and the country at large.
He also said the World Health Organisation (WHO) seeks to eliminate Hepatitis B virus by 2030 and reduce deaths associated with the virus by 65 per cent while also reducing new infections by 90 per cent. Prof. Siphambe decried the lack of awareness on Hepatitis B Virus status among many persons, which he said impedes the goal to eliminate the viral hepatitis, as many people present late to healthcare facilities, especially in resource limited settings leading to deaths that could otherwise have been avoided.
“What is going to be needed is upscaling of public education, research, capacitation of health care workers, increase of Hep B testing facilities and linkage to quality care. The HepBZero: Silent No More study is a welcome development in this area,” said Prof. Siphambe.
Giving the overview of the study, Principal Investigator, Dr Motswedi Anderson revealed that the name HepBZero was inspired by the World Health Organization’s mission to eliminate HBV by 2030 while the Silent No More part seeks to give the people a voice to speak out against HBV so that it does not continue being the silent killer that it is.. Dr Anderson said mortality due to viral hepatitis has been on the increase, killing more people than HIV and Malaria combined which calls for more efforts in addressing viral infections among communities.
HepBzero Study Results
HepBzero study enrolled 60 UB students. Before the study 45.9% of students knew nothing at all about hepatitis B virus (HBV) versus 6.6% with high level knowledge about HBV. This result confirms how silent HBV has been hence the need for HBV awareness studies. Post study, 81.8% now had high levels of knowledge of HBV showing the positive impact of the study. In this study only 6% knew their HBV status but; 95% wished to know their status and 5% were neutral about wanting to test for HBV. Pre-test and post-test assessments on the mode of transmission and pathogenesis of HBV was 27.1% versus 79.7%% respectively.
A competition for the best poster on HBV had been commissioned with TEAM ORANGE being declared the winner. The winning poster will be displayed in healthcare services.. The participants also wrote messages to the community and to the Researchers. The messages to the community will be collated and also displayed at the healthcare facilities as a way of advancing HBV awareness. One of the participants, Ofentse Ernest Kgari’s message to the researchers was. The participants also suggested HBV Setswana names. The names will be taken for further vetting by the stakeholders. The HBV Setswana name is important as we take HBV to the people.
How much do you know about HBV?