Curing a disease is one thing, but Dunedin hepatitis campaigner Hazel Heal has set her sights higher. She wants to cure a country – Niue.
Niue is the beneficiary of Ms Heal’s zeal, as the country’s entire population will be tested for hepatitis B and C, then treated if they are found to be positive.
Ms Heal and fellow recipients of Edmund Hillary Fellowships have raised the money for the project.
Academics from the University of Otago were also keen participants, and hoped to learn much more about a disease that still had its mysteries, the head of medicine at the university’s medical school, Michael Schultz, said.
Director-General of Health and the Ministry of Social Service Gaylene Tasmania told BCN News that the Niue Health Department was made aware of this project by Dr. Colin Tukuitoga late last year.
The department has been working with the organisation planning for the implementation of the elimination of Hepatitis B and C in Niue.
Hep B vaccination is already part of Niue’s National Immunization Strategy but hepatitis C is not and this project will benefit Niue by finding out how prevalent it is in the population.
Screening and treatment will be offered upon consent. Tasmania says that this is not the first time Niue is involved in an elimination strategy. Niue received an award from the WHO for the elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis a few years ago. This Award was accepted by Former Minister Billy Graham on behalf of the Niue Government at the Pacific Minister of Health meeting in the Cook Islands in 2017.