“My untold story” – A hepatitis patient in Ghana shares his experience

Robert, a hepatitis B survivor from Ghana
Robert, a hepatitis B survivor from Ghana
Robert, a hepatitis B survivor from Ghana

“Being infected with Hepatitis B is just like having a fatal disease. Once you are diagnosed with the disease, it is like a death sentence,” says 34-years-old Robert P. Idan. About 9 years ago, Robert, a music student at the University of Education in Winneba, Ghana, dropped out of school. He fell seriously ill, and the doctors initially diagnosed him with an auto immune disease.
Few years passed and Robert still did not feel well. One day, he decided to get tested, during one of the free screening and testing activities organized by the Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana.
“Even though I had heard about the disease, I did not think I could have it,” says Robert. “The test results came back, and I tested positive for hepatitis B. I was confused and did not know what to do. A nurse of the screening team took me aside, gave me some counseling and referred me to see a physician.”
There is limited data available for the specific types of viral hepatitis in Ghana. Surveillance data from all the ten regions in the country shows an increasing annual trend in the number of clinical viral hepatitis cases. At the end of 2012, a total of 12,740 cases with 162 deaths were reported, a 110% increase compared to 2011 where 5,915 cases with 78 deaths were reported.
People diagnosed with viral hepatitis often face stigma within their own communities. The level of awareness on hepatitis is very low, and majority of the people are unaware about the situation. Being infected with the virus is perceived that the person is having unprotected sex or has multiple sexual partners. “I only told my mum and a friend about my status,” tells Robert. “My friend is a nurse, and actually encouraged me to seek medical help. Without him and the Hepatitis Foundation, I would have never known that treatment for hepatitis B exists.”
“Living with hepatitis B has not been easy, but I have managed my situation. I have read a lot about the disease, to educate myself and understand my condition well,” says Robert. “People need to be better informed about the disease, so that there is less stigma within our communities. Being infected doesn’t mean a death sentence any longer. I am glad that the World Health Organization in collaboration with other partners are supporting the Ministry of Health to raise awareness about the disease. Today, hepatitis B can be treated!”
With support of WHO, the Ministry of Health in Ghana is working on a national policy on viral hepatitis, as well as developing a five-year strategic plan to come up with different ways and effective interventions on how to reduce the disease burden.
Source: WHO