Dr. Gamal Shiha, president of the African Liver Patients’ Association (ALPA), said that Egypt was capable of fulfilling the dream of a continent free of viral hepatitis, highlighting the interest that the President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi points to the issue in Africa, and he said the current phase was based on Africa's development, noting that the focus was on African human rights to education, health and residence, and here comes the role of "ALPA", affirming the right of Africans to treatment.
He added that the objective of the World Health Organization was to eradicate viral hepatitis by 2030, but that there was no plan or project developed for Africa, and that the role of Egypt, in cooperation with the African Union and ALPA, was to work together to achieve the objective of global health and to gain access to international support that will help us achieve the desired goal. He also asked the French president, Emmanuel Macaron, and the International Organization of La Francophonie to allocate 100 million dollars to the treatment of Africans suffering from viral hepatitis.
Shiha said that hepatitis B affects more than 550 million people worldwide, resulting in a high death rate (nearly 1.4 million cases per year), explaining that the vast majority of people with viral hepatitis lived in low and middle income countries in Africa and Asia, where there was no form of care and treatment, and drugs were also expensive, stressing that Africa was not isolated from the crisis: it registered a ratio of 13.7 deaths per 100,000, as well as life-threatening complications such as primary hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis of the liver.
Shiha explained that there were 70 million people infected with hepatitis C in the world, 25 million of them in Africa, and 150 million people infected with hepatitis B, 50 million of them in Africa, where there was no form of treatment, with the exception of Egypt and Algeria, noting that Egypt's leadership, potential and experience in the eradication of viral hepatitis, as well as pharmaceutical companies offering treatments at prices 100 times lower than the world price (and with the same efficiency and quality) allowed Egypt to carry out a huge project to achieve the objective of an Africa free from viruses and epidemics.
He praised the African Union's plans to establish a health care institution in Africa, in cooperation with the Bill Gates Association, fighting malaria in Africa, saying that Egypt and ALPA could cooperate with this nascent institution to develop a discussion paper and a project to achieve the goal of an Africa free of viruses B and C.
He also said that Egypt has developed a comprehensive strategy, noting that Egypt succeeded in treating two million Egyptians in the last five years. He said: "In a few years, we can achieve the goal of an Egypt free of viral hepatitis, after the implementation of the great initiative launched by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi -Campaign of "100 million healthy lives”- which will treat more than 50 million Egyptians to ensure they are not infected with hepatitis C, and Egypt, during its presidency of the African Union, can lead the continent and share its experience with all other African countries through "ALPA" to realize the dream of a continent free of viral hepatitis.” He added: "We have succeeded in Egypt through the commitment of the President and the State to treat our citizens. We could not imagine treating 4 million people infected with hepatitis C without the support of the government and important actors. This can be done as efficiently as possible and at a lower cost, but it is dangerous because this issue concerns more than 70 million people infected in Africa.”
He also added: "Egypt is one of the largest countries in the world in terms of the incidence of viral hepatitis, but after the creation of a model called “Educate, Screen and Treat” we were able to eradicate hepatitis C, and apply the model in 63 villages in 7 provinces.”
He explained that the project "villages free of viral hepatitis" was implemented in partnership with patients and villages: "We do our work through the actors and influential people of the village, such as mayors and clergymen, so that they are aware and want to treat the infected people, cooperate with us and facilitate the implementation of the project in the village.” He called on the government to include a test for hepatitis B in state-run citizen testing within the framework of the President's "100 Million Healthy Lives" initiative, noting that the project implemented by the African Association of Viral Hepatitis Patients had now reached 100 villages free of viral hepatitis.