Vaccinations before sex

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Genital herpes, syphilis, chlamydia are all part of the “sexually-transmissible infections/diseases” (or STIs/STD) category, but cannot at all be compared with HIV/AIDS, which is also part of the same group. Some can even be prevented by vaccination. This is certainly true of hepatitis B, which can cause cirrhosis and primitive carcinoma of the liver.

According to the WHO, the hepatitis B virus is 50 to 100 times more infectious than the HIV virus. It is estimated that, currently, more than 2 billion of the global population have been infected. “Hepatitis B,” continues the WHO, “is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus.”

Out of those haboring the virus, approximately 360 million are chronically infected and at risk of serious illness and death from liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

These diseases are estimated to cause between 500 000 and 700 000 deaths each year worldwide. Liver cancer is almost always fatal. This often affects highly productive people in their prime.

It is also true of human papillomaviruses (HPVs) which can cause cervical cancer 20 to 30 years after infection. Infection with the papillomavirus can lead to various genital diseases: condylomata (genital warts) which are a kind of small, benign, but extremely contagious wart; but most importantly it can lead to cervical cancer, as indicated.

The highly contagious virus may be transmitted by “percutaneous and per­mucosal exposure to infected blood” as well as other bodily fluids like semen and vaginal fluid. Among the common modes of transmis­sion are; mother-to-infant, child-to-child, unsafe injec­tion practices, blood transfusions, partners and household contacts of HBV infected persons.

To prevent it there is only one option available: vaccination. There are two vaccines available to protect against HPV infection: Gardasil, developed by Merck and Co and marketed by Sanofi Pasteur MSD, and Cervarix developed by GSK. Both vaccines must be administered towards the end of childhood or the beginning of adolescence, before the start of sexual activity.

In what concerns the treatment for acute hepatitis B, nothing specific exists. Care, though, is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance, including replacement of fluids that are lost from vomiting and diarrhoea.

The WHO indicates that the “chronic hepatitis B can be treated with drugs, including interferon and anti-viral agents, which can help some patients.” These treatments are excessively expensive and can run into several thousands of dollars per year. Most patients in developing countries including Africa die as the treatment is mostly available in developed countries. Vaccinations against Hepatitis B in Africa is as important as HIV prevention.

Health file  The lack of education and political will, poverty, out-moded traditional beliefs, to mention but a few, have been widely blamed for causing severe and sometimes unwarranted health catastrophies of genocidal proportions on the African continent. Child killer diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, water borne diseases, HIV/AIDS, among other preventable ailments have killed millions in their wake. As rightly said by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on May 13, 2000 "More people (...) died of Aids in the past year (1999-2000, ndlr) in Africa than in all the wars on the continent".
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