One in seven HIV patients in Ghana may also be infected with hepatitis b, study finds

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that causes HIV infection and over time acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancer to thrive. AIDS cannot be cured but management of the HIV can assure a life span of about 9 to 11 years. Infection of HIV occurs by the transfer of bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre- ejaculation or breast milk within which the virus exists as free viral particles or virus within infected immune cells. Hepatitis B is an infectious disease that is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and has a mode of transmission similar to that of HIV. Hepatitis B affects the liver resulting in cirrhosis and liver cancer with occasional symptoms of vomiting, yellowing of the skin, tiredness, dark urine and abdominal pains.

HIV/HBV co-infection has been a major concern in some Asian and African countries. A recent study published in the AIDS Research and Therapy journal has revealed that the prevalence rate of HIV/HBV co-infection in Ghana is 13.6%. This suggests that about one in seven HIV patients in Ghana may also be suffering from chronic HBV infection. The authors highlighted the high cost of therapy and vaccine, absence of public health schemes and inadequate documentation of HIV/HBV co-infection as factors that may be linked to the high prevalence rate. The study involved a systematic review and meta-analysis of 12 studies published between the years 1999 and 2016. A total of 8,162 HIV patients were involved in the studies reviewed.

Considering the detrimental effects of HIV on the working force in Ghana, information on the right prevalence rate will help influence policy decision and make available a better healthcare intervention and resource utilization to reduce the mortality and morbity associated with HIV/HBV co-infection. Preventive interventions and strategic policy directions, including systematic screening of all newly diagnosed HIV cases for co-infection, will be needed to improve management strategies for HBV infection and antiretroviral therapy (ART) implementation. Periodic public awareness and knowledge on HIV/HBV co-infection, coupled with the implementation of policies to integrate HBV screening as part of a comprehensive care for HIV patients is a sure way to go.

Authors of the study were Akosua Adom Agyeman and Richard Ofori-Asenso of the Research Unit, Health Policy Consult, Weija, Accra, Ghana.

Read more: Prevalence of HIV and hepatitis B coinfection in Ghana: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Digital Reporter: John Taylor (BSc Biochemistry student at KNUST)

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