To mark World Hepatitis Day, organisations from across South Africa are teaming up to raise awareness of viral hepatitis, which kills 200,000 people across Africa every year. A virtual event – Storytelling for Advocacy – will shine a spotlight on the people impacted by viral hepatitis, and demonstrate the power personal stories can have on advocacy efforts and policy change.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dying from viral hepatitis in Africa is becoming a bigger threat than dying from HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis. Chronic viral hepatitis affects over 70 million Africans (60 million with hepatitis B and 10 million with hepatitis C).
In South Africa, there are an estimated 3.4 million people with hepatitis B and 400,000 people with hepatitis C (HCV). An estimated 82,500 people inject drugs – the primary way that HCV is transmitted – with HCV prevalence in some cities over 90 per cent.
“Hepatitis B infection is preventable via vaccination,” explains Dr Andrew Scheibe, technical advisor at TB HIV Care in Cape Town. “And there are treatments available for hepatitis C that have a 95 per cent cure rate, although these Direct Acting Antivirals (DAAs) are unfortunately not yet available in South Africa.”
The event will be held virtually at 8.30am South African time Monday 25th July 2022 (three days before World Hepatitis Day). It will last for 90 minutes and aims to tackle one of the main drivers that stop people at risk of viral hepatitis accessing treatment and care.
“People most at risk of viral hepatitis tend to be from very marginalised communities and face high levels of stigma and discrimination,” explains Angela McBride, director of the South African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD). “The endemic will not end, until the stigma and discrimination which stops so many from seeking healthcare, ends too. We hope that by sharing the voices of those impacted, we can start to break down these barriers.”
Led by the International Network on Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU) and held in collaboration with TB HIV Care, the virtual ‘Storytelling for Advocacy’ event will give people with lived experience of using drugs and/or living with viral hepatitis, the chance to share their stories.
Partners of the event include The South African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD), South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), the South African Central Drug Authority (CDA), the South African Department of Social Development, the South African Department of Health, South African National Aids Council (SANAC), alongside organisations from Kenya.
Other speakers include:
- Award-winning South African storyteller Mathapelo Mofokeng, who will help organisations and individuals understand the power of storytelling, and how personal stories can influence advocacy efforts and facilitate policy change
- Dr Kgomotso Vilakazi-Nhlapo, Viral Hepatitis Lead, National Department of Health, South Africa
- Koketso Mokubane, Peer, South African Network of People Who Use Drugs, South Africa
- Wamda Abuelhassan, Gastroenterologist, Johannesburg, South Africa
- Dr Andrew Scheibe, Technical Advisor at TB HIV Care
- Plus, more to be announced from Kenya
“This event builds on a range of activities that INHSU has delivered with partners in South Africa since 2020,” explained Nikitah Habraken, acting executive director of INHSU. “These coordinated advocacy efforts are so important in raising awareness of the inequalities facing people who use drugs and ensuring that viral hepatitis elimination efforts stay on national agendas.”
The free-to-attend virtual event is open to physicians, nurses, community workers, policy makers, program managers, people with lived experience, advocates and anyone with an interest in the health and wellbeing of people who use drugs.
- For South Africa specific interviews please contact Phumlani Malinga, Communications Department at SANPUD firstname.lastname@example.org
- For images, general enquiries, or interviews with the International Network on Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users please Brooke Nolan on: Nolan@inhsu.org