Mumbai: In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of a maternity ward, a group of community health volunteers (CHVs) gathered to hear social worker Tara Raghunath talk about Hepatitis on the occassion of World Hepatitis Day on Friday. Raghunath is one of the social workers working with NGO United Way that is training health volunteers onHepatitis.
“There is very little awareness about this disease among the health workers,” said Raghunath. According to World Health Organisation, it is estimated that the total carrier pool of Hepatitis B Virus is 40 million and Hepatitis C Virus 15 million in India with the national prevalence rate of 3.7 per cent for Hepatitis B and 1 per cent for Hepatitis C. It is estimated that about one million Indians are at risk of acquiring Hepatitis B infection and about 10,000. A volunteer said, “Apart from illness like HIV and cancer, there is very little awareness.” Hepatitis B is supposed to be 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV, yet there is a very low awareness about it.
The high risk group that is prone to Hepatitis B includes scrapyard workers, barbers and nearby communities, commercial sex workers and transgender and truck drivers. In a research conducted on 400 commercial sex workers it was found that 97 per cent of the respondents are unaware of Hepatitis B. The report further stated that 99.7 per cent have not seen any Hepatitis related-communication material.