Hepatitis B is a public health concern globally; however a majority of people in Ghana still think it is a form of witchcraft or that someone has been poisoned by his or her enemy. Such misconceptions about this infectious disease are believed to have fueled the spread in the West African country. 32-year-old Mankarel Hassan was diagnosed with the disease seven months ago. He found out about his status when he went to donate blood to his sister. “When the doctor told me that my sister was in need of blood, I knew that I was the best person to help her. Unfortunately, my blood was of no use since I tested positive for hepatitis B,” Mankarel said. He said he was still trying to come to terms with this. Luckily, Mankarel’s sister managed to get blood from the blood bank at the Teaching Hospital in Tamale in northern Ghana. Mankarel, who has no family of his own, found it hard to break the news to his family because of the stigma and discrimination that persons diagnosed with hepatitis B often experience from the community. Many receive little support from their families because of a widespread lack of awareness. “When I broke the news to my mother, she took me to many spiritual healers because she thought I’d been poisoned,” Mankarel told DW. “I have heard a lot about my condition on radio and I visited a hospital to seek help from a doctor. Whenever I see many people who are infected with the virus, I pity myself because I don’t know what will happen to me,” he said. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic forms of the disease. It is a major public health problem globally, particularly in developing countries. Most people do not experience any symptoms during the acute infection phase. However, some suffer from acute illness with symptoms that last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Those who develop acute hepatitis can develop acute liver failure, which can lead to death.

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