Advocacy, Awareness and Education Campaigns

By Mwape Chisonde

Hep Initiative Zambia (HIZ) are a patient-led and patient-driven not-for-profit organisation. Their mission is to harness the power of people living with viral hepatitis to achieve its elimination. Their vision for the organisation is to provide adequate, affordable and accessible hepatitis education, testing and treatment.

The Campaign

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a very common virus in Zambia. WHO estimates that 296 million people were living with chronic hepatitis B in 2019 globally, with 1.5 million new infections each year. In Zambia, there is a lack of accurate data on the prevalence of hepatitis but in 2016, it was estimated that 5.4% of the adult population had hepatitis, increasing to 12.3% amongst those living with HIV.

The project aimed to raise awareness of hepatitis amongst medical students and assess the seroprevalence of hepatitis B. These were students from Chreso University in the Lusaka District.

HIZ chose to create this project based on research conducted by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Zambia, which highlighted the need for awareness raising in the country. This sparked the organisations interest in sensitisation and testing among students who could be or have been exposed to the virus.

There was an overwhelming and positive response to the campaign.

Achievements

  • HIZ were able to reach out to 10,000 medical students. They provided hepatitis education and free hepatitis screening services.
  • 1500 students were screened for hepatitis B
  • 20 students were linked to care
  • There was also a large number of volunteers who came to help with the advocacy.

Challenges

  • Unfortunately, there was a lack of testing kits, which meant there was a limit on how many students could be screened. Those who had been on clinical placements or had been exposed to hospital environments were screened first.
  • As well as the lack of testing kits, many students requested hepatitis B vaccinations but HIZ did not have any to administer.
  • It was also difficult for some students to get transportation to the testing location

Lessons learned

  • HIZ believe that providing resources for civil society organisations like themselves could help projects like this be replicated at a national level

Key messages

  • HIZ encourages individuals to get tested for hepatitis B. This is to ensure that if they test positive, they are linked to appropriate care.
  • Those hoping to start a medical career should get vaccinated before any hospital placements.

Find out more

If you would like to find out more, please contact hepinitiative@gmail.com