My Untold Story
My name is Robert. I am 34 years and come from Winneba in the Central Region of Ghana. I was a student studying music at the University of Education in Winneba, but I had to drop out of school in 2007 because I was seriously ill. I had boils all over my body and suffered swollen feet. When I reported at the hospital I was told I had Auto immune Disease and the Doctor had to perform some surgery to remove some of the boils. I stayed in hospital for well over a month and was put on antibiotics.
For over four years I was still not feeling well, so in 2012 during the World Hepatitis Day Celebrations in Ghana the Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana organized free screening as part of the celebrations. I went through the screening and my results were bad. I tested positive for Hepatitis B. At that time my eyes were discolored, as well as my urine and even my palms. Even though I had heard about Hepatitis B I did not think that was what I was suffering from all this while because my doctor has told me that I had Autoimmune Disease. I was so confused and did not know what to do. A member of the screening team took me through some counselling session and later gave me a referral note to see a Physician at the Korle-bu Teaching Hospital.
I had always heard that Hepatitis B infection is just like HIV-AIDS and once you are diagnosed with it, it is s like a death sentence. In my community people know that Hepatitis B infection is associated with engaging in unprotected sex and having multiple sexual partners. With this situation I decided not to inform my father who happens to be a disciplinarian but to inform my mother and siblings. I also confided in a friend who is a nurse and he actually encouraged me to seek medical help.
The Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana followed up with me and made sure I sought for treatment.
As I mentioned earlier I live in a community and country where the level of awareness on hepatitis is very low. Majority of the people are ignorant about the situation and there is so much stigma associated with Hepatitis B.
It has not been easy at all, but I have been managing the situation and thank God I am still alive. I have also been reading a lot of information (brochures, handbills etc) from the Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana just to educate myself.
In Ghana I think stigma is a big issue and I would appreciate it if WHO and Partners can support in advocacy activities to reduce the stigma and also get a lot more people well informed about the disease.
At least now I believe that Hepatitis is treatable and this is my message to everyone, especially, to those infected and affected by the disease.