Malam Tanko is a 36-year-old resident of Azare, Bauchi State. He has been a childhood friend and is now a university lecturer. In Nigeria’s current economic state, Mr. Tanko can be described as a productive and successful young man. Tanko found love in Ayesha, who was engaged to marry him. However, things took a drastic turn, when, as his friend, we advised him to conduct a premarital health screening before their marriage. Unfortunately, the test revealed his fiancĂ©, Ayesha, was reactive to Hepatitis antigen. This made Mr. Tanko extremely sad, but fortunately, the progress made in preventive medicine appears to have worked for Tanko and his fiancĂ©. The wife was diagnosed, treated, and got well soon after. Also, Mr. Tanko had the complete doses of the hepatitis vaccine, and they are currently blessed with two beautiful kids, namely Musa and Fatima. This family escaped the virulence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, which accounts for nearly one million deaths globally every year, according to WHO and CDC reports 1.

    But, how many Nigerians actually know about the Hepatitis B virus?

    In the realm of public health, proactive measures play a pivotal role in safeguarding the well-being of a nation’s citizens 2. Nigeria, as a country striving for progress and development, has made commendable strides in addressing various health challenges. However, there remains a crucial gap that warrants attention: the prevalence of Hepatitis B.

    The Burden of Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis B is a silent epidemic in Nigeria, with a significant impact on the healthcare system and the affected families. Nearly one million deaths occur globally every year due to Hepatitis B infection 2. The virus can be transmitted through various routes, including unprotected sex, contaminated needles, and from infected mothers to their babies during childbirth. With an estimated twenty million people infected in Nigeria alone, the burden on the healthcare system is immense 1. The economic and personal hardships faced by the affected families further emphasize the urgency of addressing this preventable disease.

    Call for action and benefits of compulsory pre-marital screening for hepatitis B

    To further enhance the health and future prospects of our population, it is imperative to advocate for the implementation of compulsory Hepatitis B vaccination before marriage in sero-discordant couples. This thoughtful initiative has the potential to revolutionize our healthcare landscape and significantly reduce the burden of this preventable disease.

    In addition to the direct health benefits, mandating Hepatitis B vaccination before marriage can help address the stigma associated with the infection. Increasing awareness about the importance of vaccination can dispel myths and misconceptions, fostering a culture of acceptance and understanding. As societal attitudes evolve, individuals living with Hepatitis B will find it easier to seek timely medical care, further contributing to disease prevention and management.

    Roadmap for Implementation

    The successful implementation of compulsory premarital screening for Hepatitis B requires a collaborative effort between government agencies, healthcare professionals, and community leaders. Here is a roadmap for the implementation:

    1. Awareness Campaigns: Launch comprehensive educational campaigns to increase awareness about Hepatitis B, its transmission routes, and the importance of screening before marriage. These campaigns should target both the general population and healthcare professionals.
    2. Establishment of Screening Centers: Set up accessible and well-equipped screening centers across the country. These centers should have trained healthcare professionals who can perform the screening and provide counseling to individuals and couples.
    3. Efficient Vaccine Administration: Ensure the availability and efficient administration of Hepatitis B vaccines. Vaccination should be provided to individuals who test negative for the virus and their partners to prevent transmission.
    4. Partnerships with International Organizations: Collaborate with international organizations that have expertise in Hepatitis B prevention and control. These partnerships can provide valuable resources, technical support, and funding to support the implementation of the program.


    At this point, I am calling on the honorable minister of health, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, who has a proven record of excellence in public health practice at the national and global levels, to champion the cause of compulsory Hepatitis B screening and vaccination before marriage. His Excellency, at this point, you have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of millions, as the power to shape the health trajectory of nearly two hundred Nigerians lies in your hands. This visionary approach will not only prevent disease transmission but also contribute to a healthier and stronger Nigeria, paving the way for generations to come. Let us seize this moment and lead the charge towards a brighter and more resilient future.

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    A Publication by Ibrahim Khalil Ja’afar