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Hepatitis Awareness Campaign in Abu Dhabi
 
 
  Taking Hepatitis head-on
 
By Rayeesa Absal
rayeesa@eveningpost.ae
 
Al Jazira Sports and Health Foundation fights social stigma surrounding Hepatitis by creating awareness
 
ABU DHABI As the UAE's first-ever hepatitis awareness and prevention campaign comes to a close, the people who worked tirelessly to put it together can rest assured it was a success.
 
Organised by the Al Jazira Sports and Health Foundation, the Hepatitis campaign saw various activities and workshops being held in the capital with hundreds of participants.
 
Speaking exclusively to the Evening Post, Dr. Hamad Al Ghaferi, Director, National committee on Hepatitis Awareness, said, "There is a social stigma surrounding hepatitis... in the early stages of the campaign, we had a few incidents where patients did not report the disease to proper channels thinking it would destroy their social and family life. Another factor is ignorance, wherein many who get Hepatitis believe that they are infected with the HIV virus... while in fact they are not."
 
Highlighting the importance of the campaign, Dr. Ghaferi said that few people are aware that Hepatitis B is 100 times more contagious than the AIDS virus and can cause liver cancer in a comparatively short time.
 
"Our mission was to develop an awareness campaign on Viral Hepatitis and develop all related educational and training manuals geared towards limiting the spread of the disease." By this we aimed at raising the level of awareness in regards to the disease, including awareness of the modes of transmission and prevention. In addition to developing skills and competencies related to healthy behaviour, and encourage healthy choices, he said.
 
The Hepatitis campaign, now well into its third and final phase, was a very effective tool in reaching out to the public especially with its 24 hour call centre which has received thousands of calls since its launch. "There were around 800 calls this month, asking about awareness methods and vaccinations."
 
Phase one of the campaign revolved around raising awareness in the disease, while phase two dealt with reinforcing the nature of the disease and the ways it could be prevented. The third phase focuses on bringing down social stigma and negative attitudes surrounding Hepatitis.
 
According to reports by the World Health Organisation, the incidence level of Hepatitis in the lower Gulf ranges between two to five per cent. Hepatitis B is an alarming global disease with 300,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States alone.
 
Though the campaign targets the community at large; Dr. Ghaferi said that the focus is on certain groups that we think are more susceptible to the disease such as school age children, mothers and women at child-bearing age, patients and their contacts, healthcare professionals and any individuals at high risk.
 
"We have tailored multiple activities dedicated to each community, cluster (mothers, labourers, service workers, children and the public at large), and have had a minimum of 50 participants at each workshop and activity."
 
"The campaign will come to an end, when the higher council feels confident that all key messages have been communicated efficiently to the public. I estimate phase three will continue for another few weeks followed by the grand finale," said Dr. Ghaferi.
 
Origin of the campaign
The National Committee on Hepatitis Awareness was established after a resolution passed by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Presidential Affairs, in February 2006. The Committee, which was officially launched in December 2006, includes members from various health organisations as well as other groups concerned with the issue.
 
Both the committee and the Hepatitis awareness campaign operate under the Al Jazira Sports and Health Foundation, a non-profit organisation, jointly formed by a MoU between the Al Jazira Club and the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Technology.
 
The Foundation's main objectives revolve around developing and delivering health promotion programmes emphasising physical fitness and lifestyle modifications, especially among school children. It also trains and develops the necessary competencies in health and sports education.
 
What is Hepatitis?
An infectious disease of the liver caused by medication side effects, excessive alcohol, toxic chemicals, disorder of the gall bladder or pancreas, and infections. The different strains of the disease are A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis B and C are most deadly since they can become chronic, often with no early acute symptoms. For more info on Hepatitis call 800 3211 or log on to www.hepatitis.ae.
 
 
 
 
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