How health awareness and education can save lives
FOLLOWING the activities of World Hepatitis Day, Mandaluyong became the first city in the Philippines to initiate the B Positive movement—an advocacy aimed towards raising proactive awareness towards Hepatitis B.
The launch at the Mandaluyong City Hall included free testing of Hepatitis B Surface Antigen to some few hundred pre-registered and walk-in residents. The event also included free seminars on the prevention and management of Hepatitis B, as well as consultations on what to do in case one tests positive for the disease.
The Mandaluyong campaign was spearheaded by Councilor Charisse Abalos, who along with other advocates for Hepatitis B (doctors and volunteers from various support groups), held a press conference to discuss facts and answer questions regarding Hepatitis.
According to Councilor Abalos, “The ‘Be In” campaign is for societal infusion; for those who are being discriminated because of this prevalent condition.
Hard hitting facts
One in every eight Filipino adults has Hepatitis B. The disease kills more Filipinos faster than HIV and other sicknesses. And usually, it is caused by complications produced by the illness such as liver cancer or cirrhosis—that which caused the death of respected actor Mark Gil this week.
It is the young who are most susceptible to being victims of Hepatitis B, affecting people between the ages of 20 and 49. There are up to 12,000 Overseas Filipino Workers who are rejected from going abroad every year because they test positive.
But according to Dr. Ira Yu, a consultant with the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, “Hepatitis is not only a Filipino disease. There are roughly four million people around the world with chronic Hepatitis B, though in the Philippines, we have a prevalence of
Hepatitis B, with at least 16 percent affecting the population.”
Contrary to what some may think, Hepatitis B is not contagious. It can be caught through blood exposure to someone who has it, or through sexual intercourse, but cannot be caught through contact with saliva or through the air. It is though, still incurable, but can be managed through proper medicinal intake.
Dr. Eva Maglonzo, executive secretary of the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians, explained, “Those who are at high risk are those who have high exposure to procedures or whose nature of work exposes them to it. These are jobs that involve contact with knives or razors or anything that can cut you, or being in workplace where there’s a constant transfer of sexual fluids. These will increase the risk of contracting the disease.”
“This is what the ‘B Positive’ campaign is fighting—the misconception, stigma and discrimination. Lack of knowledge leads to negativity, and that’s why we want to address the negativity by championing positivity,” echoed Abalos.
The campaign advocates three specific steps: “Be certain, get tested. Be Optimistic. Be Supportive.”
“The first step to better understanding is to get tested. After getting tested, the next step is to be optimistic for those who tested positive.
Hepatitis B is not the end. Those who test positive can still be productive members of society, and can still manage the disease by taking medicines, and taking precautions to avoid giving the disease to someone else. And lastly is being supportive, which involves rallying others to be supportive and encouraging them towards awareness, as well,” she elaborated.
At the B Positive launch, Mandaluyong City invited advocates from two support groups. These are the Yellow Warriors Society of the Philippines (YWSP), advocates for the eradication of Hepatitis B and C, represented by Attorney Eric Ueda; and YWSP a nation-wide support group, and member of the World Hepatitis Alliance since 2010.
According to Attorney Ueda, “We are lobbying laws, and we hope that local government units will start having an ordinance, and protecting carriers. And hoping that in due time, we will have national legislation on addressing this health risk.”
Love Yourself Inc. was also present at the launch, led by Lexy Aurelio, who is the councilor and project manager for B Positive. Her group aims to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS among the youth, by providing them with awareness, counseling and education.
“There are co-infections, people who have HIV, also have Hepatitis B,” Aurelio noted. “We support this movement because the transmission of HIV and AIDS is similar to Hepatitis B.”