NOhep Supporter Spotlight: SOS Hepatitis Burkina
SOS Hepatitis Burkina was founded in 2011 and is an association of people living with or affected by hepatitis B or C, and people living with hepatitis/HIV co-infection. Our aim is to help eliminate viral hepatitis and other chronic and communicable diseases. From awareness raising and advocacy, to screening and vaccination drives, we do all we can to find and support people living with viral hepatitis in Burkina Faso and to drive political commitment to elimination.
Viral hepatitis is a big problem in Burkina Faso. The prevalence of hepatitis B and C were respectively 9.1 per cent and 3.6 per cent in 2016 according to a study conducted by the Center Muraz, the CNTS and the National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS). While access to medication is acceptable and the cost is subsidised by the government, public awareness of viral hepatitis remains insufficiently low and many people remain undiagnosed.
The Burkina Faso Ministry of Health adopted a national strategic plan to fight viral hepatitis in 2017. However, to this day, there is no budget line for the plan. A lack of funding is a major barrier to elimination in Burkina Faso, and we need political commitment to fund and integrate the hepatitis strategic plan with other existing programmes. Our country has made incredible progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, achieving a reduction in prevalence from 7.17 per cent in 1987 to just 0.8 per cent in 2016. This shows what can be achieved with political will and a united effort from different actors and should inspire and accelerate our efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis.
Advocacy is a huge part of what we at SOS Hépatites Burkina do. Through advocacy, we secured the support of WHO/Burkina to organise the first-ever World Hepatitis Day event in Burkina Faso in 2012. In 2014, we successfully advocated to the Ministry of Health to establish a committee to develop a national strategic plan. We now sit on this committee. We also secured a lower price for viral load testing through advocating to a research centre, Center de Biologie Moléculaire Pietro Anigoni.
We launched NOhep in Burkina Faso in 2016 with a march in support of our government and health authorities’ commitment to eliminate viral hepatitis. The march ended in front of the Ministry of Health, where we made an advocacy statement for the effective implementation of the national hepatitis plan. In 2017, we held a second march entitled “NOhep/NOexcuse”, through which we called on our government to act without delay to save lives. These marches helped fuel a resumption of efforts to develop the national plan in 2016, and its adoption by the Ministry of Health in 2017.
The fight we are waging against hepatitis has been well-supported by the media, as evidenced by the mobilisation of 24 press organisations during the launch of the awareness and advocacy campaign “Find the Missing Millions” in 2018. We also receive considerable coverage of our World Hepatitis Day activities each year.
As well as advocacy, we also work hard to raise awareness and offer counselling, screening and hepatitis B vaccination in both the capital city, Ouagadougou, and in other parts of the country. Whenever we can, we support patients on low incomes to access consultation, laboratory analysis and even medication where possible.
Our dream is to see a Burkina Faso, or even a world without viral hepatitis. It is possible to achieve this dream in Burkina Faso, but only with real political will, increased funding, and through integrating hepatitis into other existing programmes including HIV and maternal health programmes.
We also need to increase public awareness, challenge stigma and discrimination, improve access to screening and treatment, and strengthen our technical platforms. It will take a united effort from the government, NGOs, health professionals, scientists, individuals and donors but, together, we believe it is possible.
It will also take working together to achieve global elimination, and that is why NOhep is so important. NOhep engages and brings together people from all over the world to act together to accelerate efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.