… and ignorance – hepatitis. NP E.V.A. Project Coordinator Alexei Lahov set off to improve his knowledge about viral hepatitis.
From the 15th through the 18th of May, 2016 in Belgrad, Serbia, at ELPA University, a course devoted to the topics of fundraising, community involvement, working with volunteers, and activism in the field of viral hepatitis took place.
The European Liver Patients’ Association began its activity in June 2004 following the meeting of 13 patient groups from 10 European and Mediterranean countries. Its official debut was on April 14, 2005 during the annual European Association on the Study of Liver (EASL) Conference. And in 2015, the patients’ association organized the first educational module on issues of liver health and advocacy in the field of viral hepatitis and named it ELPA University, combining theoretical and practical exercises.
Project Coordinator Alexei Lahov of NP E.V.A. shares:
“Thanks to the active interaction of our partnership and the United Against Hepatitis organization, I was able to take part in the educational program at ELPA University. On the first day of the courses, ‘graduates’ from the previous year told us about their projects working with hepatitis, which they were able to accomplish in their respective countries as a result of this program. What was the most impressive?
For example, in Serbia a project entitled Hep-Free Badge is being implemented, the point of which is that patient organizations and doctors together taught staff at manicure salons, the exact place, as it is well-known, where one can simply accidentally ‘catch’ viral hepatitis, on what viral hepatitis is, how it is spread, how to protect clients, etc. Those who took part in these trainings received a certificate.
In Istanbul, Turkey, on the 28th of July, 2015, the World Hepatitis Day, activists got permission from the local government to light up the bridge across the Bosphorus with yellow lights. In this way they brought people’s attention to viral hepatitis.
And in Croatia on World Hepatitis Day, a mobile unit was set up where people were able to have a fibroscan for free (in other words, they checked the tissues of their liver)! The line for the mobile unit was huge, which is not surprising considering that the procedure is rather expensive: in Saint Petersburg, for example, it can be done for an average of 3,000 rubles.
Then the participants told about the situation with viral hepatitis in their countries. For example:
— In Bosnia and Herzegovina, 3-7% of the population have been infected with Hepatitis B and C. In the case of Hepatitis B, this means 30,000 — 50,000 individuals and Hepatitis C, 40,000 — 50,000;
— In Croatia, according to statistics, around 25,000 people (less than 1% of the population) live with chronic Hepatitis B and around 40,000 people (1% of the population) live with viral Hepatitis C;
— In Finland, around 27,000 people live with chronic Hepatitis C and from 1,000 to 1,200 people are found to be infected yearly, the majority of which are people in the age range of 20 – 29 years;
— In Sweden, the scope of chronic viral Hepatitis C is 6 times more than HIV infection. Around 2,000 new cases are found yearly.
The next course included:
— a session on increasing the number of members in an organization, fundraising, and applying for funds;
— a session on building relationships with partners;
— a session on garnering volunteers.”
Nikita Kovalenko, of the organization United Against Hepatitis, shares:
“The common issues became clear as well as the the direction in which work must be developed:
— It is important to expand testing programs and change the focus from ‘at-risk groups’ to ‘basic citizens’ who think that hepatitis doesn’t impact them. At least half of those infected are unaware that they are ill because they were never tested for hepatitis. They are sure that in their lives there was never a situation where they could have been infected with hepatitis. But this is a dangerous misconception.
— Each person who receives a positive hepatitis test result must understand what to do next, how to confirm the diagnosis, where to go for counseling, when to start treatment, and how to reduce the negative effects of hepatitis on one’s health.
— It is crucial to improve accessibility to not only treatment, but also to comprehensive hepatitis diagnostics.
— One of the most challenging tasks is telling people, without complaining about health, about the dangers of viral hepatitis and about how to reduce the risk of infection, as well as how to avoid unintentionally infecting one’s clients, for example, in the case of dentists, tattoo artists, and manicurists.”
In September 2016 the ELPA University program continues. Follow our site for updates!