It’s preventable, yet 1/3 of the world’s population has been infected at some time. Some cases are acute causing fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and general ill health that can last some weeks or months. Some people become chronic carriers and may or may not have symptoms, though both versions affect the liver.
One of the ASAH students who joined us in May became ill and was hospitalized at the John Dau Foundation Lost Boys Clinic and County Hospital. The diagnosis – typhoid and Hepatitis B. Our matron, Daruka, spent four nights sleeping in the hospital with her.
Hepatitis B is transmitted like HIV, and transmission can be prevented through the same precautions. However, Hep B is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.
ASAH’s mission is to Protect. Educate. and Empower. Our goal is to protect our students from forced marriage at puberty. Our relationship with the communities we serve, their leaders, the guardians of the girls, the local school teachers, and the county officials has put a focus on the issue of forced marriage. The guardians understand that we are making an investment in the child’s education. Local leaders have indicated to families that this investment would have to be repaid if the child was withdrawn from our program prematurely. Our program is so popular, and many families have put their hopes and dreams in the ASAH student’s future, so it is unlikely we will face that problem.
We have had students suffer from malaria and other illness that regularly plague people in this part of the world, but the Hep B infection has raised our awareness of diseases that can be spread amongst people living in close quarters. ASAH took action, and we have raised our level of PROTECTION for our students and staff.
All students and staff were tested for Hepatitis B. Though only one was ill, six of 34 students tested positive. These students will be retested in six months. There is a vaccine to protect from Hepatitis B, but the clinic funding source is not providing them. We ordered the vaccines from Kenya and they were carried on the AIM Air plane that came from Nairobi to pick us up. These vaccines are not easily available in Africa, and of course provided an unexpected expense, though the clinic medical care is free.
All students and staff were vaccinated – those who tested positive were “vaccinated” with a placebo to preserve confidentiality. The students who tested positively will receive counseling, along with their guardians, about protecting others if their disease proves to be chronic and transmittable.
The JDF Lost Boys Clinic staff are developing a health record for each ASAH student, and we will keep track of their medical records so they will have this to carry with them in the future. They will be tested for other known infections and treated as needed. The clinic will also provide additional training in health and hygiene to reduce transmission illness.
The ASAH girls will change their world.