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Hepatitis B pops up in Parliament – to beg MPs for NHIS cover

As matter of urgent public importance the somewhat shelved-subject of Hepatitis B was raised on the Floor of Parliament yesterday Tuesday February 2023 by the Deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin who pleaded that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) should bear the cost of testing and treating Hepatitis B cases in the country.

He moved that Parliament “speaks with one voice and requests an urgent scaling up of efforts nationwide to defeat the virus” within Ghana’s borders.

Afenyo-Markin, Member of Parliament for the Effutu Constituency in the Central Region quoted data and statistics from the Ministry of Health which said currently, between 3 million to 4.6 million people are said to be suffering from chronic Hepatitis B infection

“Unfortunately, the majority of those living with the virus do not know their status. This is the case even though science and medicine have developed to a point where it is possible to eliminate the virus”, Afenyo-Markin added.

He said “estimates released by the Ghana Health Service in 2020 show that an average of 120,000 newborns will be exposed to the Hepatitis B virus by their mothers during delivery. Also, up to 90% of Ghana’s newborns may end up being infected at some point. The reason is that infected pregnant women who are actively incubating the virus have a 90% chance of transmitting it to the newborn.”

Afenyo-Markin asked the Speaker  to consider Ghana’s grim situation and kindly refer this statement to a joint committee on Health, Finance and Social Welfare.

“Their task should be to consider and recommend to this honourable House the most viable means by which the NHIS can bear the cost of testing, vaccination and treatment of Hepatitis B cases in the long term without crippling the already overburdened scheme. Their report will guide legal and policy response to the plague in a way that helps Ghana decisively defeat the virus” Afenyo-Markin suggested.

The Deputy Majority Leader called on Parliament to ensure that Ghana must prioritise and scale up Hepatitis B elimination prevention, testing and treatment programs to ensure that no one is left behind

“We must confront the virus head-on and defeat it. We have a lot to do to win against such a deadly infection. However, we will take a giant step in the right direction if we decide today to do the things I have proposed. Indeed, without a concerted effort by the Government, partners, citizens, and all other stakeholders within the health, social welfare and security spaces, our country will most likely miss the 2030 deadline to eliminate the virus”, Afenyo-Markin concluded his statement.

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