Student Welfare Department & Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Launch HBV Study

The Department of Student Welfare in partnership with Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute launched a Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) study on February 10, 2020, to determine current knowledge and attitudes towards HBV and HBV research in the community.

The study further aims to interactively share knowledge on Hepatitis B virus (HBV) transmission, pathogenesis, treatment and research with students. It will involve 60 participants in focus groups of 15 people each.  Target age for the study is 18 to 40 year-old adults from the University community. The target group was selected on the assumption that in Africa HBV infections are mostly acquired during childhood hence this is the group that may require interventions.

The research is also on adults because they are within the bracket and their feedback is invaluable. Furthermore, the research includes women of child bearing age who carry the risk of transmitting HBV to their infants who conversely have a 90 per cent of developing chronic HBV infection. Key stakeholders inlcude the Ministry of Health and Wellness representatives, University administrators and community representatives.

Speaking at the launch, Principal Investigator, Dr Motswedi Anderson, said mortality due to viral hepatitis increased by 22 per cent between 2000 and 2015. That was during an era in which deaths due to other pathogens like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), malaria and tuberculosis decreased.

Dr Anderson added that most of the viral hepatitis burden was due to Hepatitis B virus (HBV), which chronically infected around 257 million people globally and accounted for 887 000 deaths per annum. Dr Anderson further said HBV was endemic in Africa, with 60 million people positive for Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg).

Deputy Vice Chancellor Student Affairs, Professor Happy Siphambe, said viral Hepatitis had been on the rise globally hence more efforts in addressing the viral affection among communities. He also said world health organisation sought to eliminate Hepatitis B virus by 2030 and reduce deaths by 65 per cent while reducing new infections by 90 per cent.

“The astounding lack of awareness on Hepatitis B Virus status among many, impedes this goal to eliminate viral hepatitis, as many people present late to healthcare facilities, especially in resource limited settings, leading to deaths that could have been avoided. This calls for the attention of all stakeholders in the health sector, globally and nationally, including here in Botswana to upscale research, capacitating of health workers and linkage to quality care,” said Professor Siphambe.

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