New Rotarian Action Group takes on hepatitis eradication

By Humberto Silva, Chair of the Hepatitis Eradication Rotarian Action Group and member of Rotary Club of São Paulo-Jardim das Bandeiras in Brazil

Humberto SilvaAccording to the World Health Organization, viral hepatitis is the seventh leading cause of death worldwide. Together, Hepatitis B and C kills close to 1.4 million people every year. Around the world, 400 million people living with chronic Hepatitis B and C, the most serious forms of viral hepatitis, don’t know they are infected. Untreated cases cause serious damage to the liver and result in death.

I was once one of those 400 million people in good health and without a single symptom while my liver was being taken by cirrhosis. In 2010, before a trip to the South Africa FIFA World Cup, I visited the doctor to ensure my vaccines were up-to-date. Apart from the vaccines, the doctor also tested for Hepatitis B and C and there it was: hepatitis C.

I received treatment and a second chance at life. I knew I had to do something to help the millions of other people who were still suffering. I started to research the disease and found that 3 million in my country of Brazil shared my same problem. They showed no signs of a damaged liver, but were living with the terrible disease. I became president of the Brazilian Association of People with Hepatitis (ABPH) which established five free clinics in Brazil with a the sixth one soon opening in Mexico focused on prevention and treatment.

Using point of care blood testing, we started offering screenings all over the country. We performed half a million tests and identified 5,000 people like me living with the disease with no symptoms of infection. We helped those testing positive for hepatitis connect with treatment options.

My Rotarian friends accepting my invitation to join the mission. We engaged Rotary clubs throughout Brazil, and have now spread to all of Latin America. Over 1,000 clubs are working with us, performing low-cost and convenient tests to detect the disease. Lives are being saved and each infected person now has a chance to get treatment and be cured. Today, treatment is easy and effective in almost 100% of cases. The biggest challenge is finding those who are infected with the disease.

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The Hepatitis Eradication Rotarian Action Group was formed to help clubs and districts with hepatitis screening and testing campaigns. Join our group and volunteer to help us form a committee in your country to conduct testing. The group is open to Rotary members, their families, program participants, and alumni with expertise or a passion for a particular service area.

Contact me for more information and to join our efforts!

Collaborate with Rotarian experts on maternal and child health projects

By Zuhal Sharp, Rotary Service and Engagement staff

Is your club or district thinking of starting a project focused on maternal and child health? Are you looking for resources to help you get started? Rotarian Action Groups (RAGs) help clubs and districts plan and implement service projects. RAGs are organized by committed Rotarians, Rotarians’ family members, and Rotary program participants and alumni who have expertise and a passion for a particular type of service. Learn about our current  Groups with expertise in maternal and child health, and contact them directly for assistance with starting a new, or expanding an existing, initiative:

With 20,000 worldwide members, the Rotarian Action Group for Population & Development (RFPD) has the largest membership of any action group. RFPD assists with projects addressing the intersection of unsustainable development, human suffering, and overpopulation, such as access to health services. The group maintains information on population and development projects that clubs/districts can help sponsor. An example of their work:

  • The group’s signature project in northern Nigeria, funded in part by the Rotary Foundation, the German government (BMZ) and the Aventis Foundation, is a comprehensive approach aimed at a sustainable reduction of maternal and perinatal mortality. Initially piloted in ten hospitals, the program has more than doubled to 25 hospitals in six states of Nigeria. The project aims to improve the Nigerian health system through the support and implementation of the medical guidelines and quality assurance in administered services. Read more about the project.

The Rotarian Action Group for Healthy Pregnancies / Healthy Children (RAG HP/HC) encourages Rotary members to work towards achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. The group is working with clubs and districts to provide education and promote awareness of prenatal care:

  • In partnership with the Rotary Club of Paramaribo Residence (Suriname) and the Rotary Club of Leiden (Netherlands), the group implemented health education programs at secondary schools, as well as provided education on a healthy pregnancy for women visiting hospitals and primary health care clinics in Paramaribo, Suriname. The program was carried out through trained midwives and other health care professionals. Contact the group to get involved on a similar project.

In addition to organizing health camps enabling access to services such as dental care, health screenings, vaccinations and more, the Health Education and Wellness Rotarian Action Group provides Rotary members with the tools and knowledge they need to advocate for cost-effective, low-technology programs for early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. Contact the group to get involved.

Are you attending the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta? Connect with Rotarian Action Groups in the House of Friendship and attend their open events and meetings.

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