27 May 2021
Name: Mr. Mohammed Kofi Yasimo
Location: Accra, Ghana
Job title: Vice president at the Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana
Specialisms: Hep C, Hep B, Prisons
In our third Meet the Members interview we spoke with Mr. Mohammed Kofi Yasimo, vice president at the Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana to discuss the challenges faced by people with hepatitis in Ghana, and what steps can be taken to improve the situation.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I have a Master of Research and Public Policy from the Centre of Social Policy Studies at the University of Ghana and I am an Elected Assembly Member for Kwao Baah Electoral Area of Upper West Akim District Assembly in the eastern region of Ghana.
As Vice President of the Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana, I assist, initiate and perform research and policy duties as well as participating in community engagement, education and advocacy.
Why did you choose to work within the hepatitis sector?
My motivation came from the high cost of hepatitis treatments and the lack of education and advocacy to support people living with hepatitis, which I experienced first-hand as a Hepatitis patient. Furthermore, the lack of commitment of the government and stakeholders.
A systematic review and meta-analysis indicated that the prevalence of HBV infection between 2015 and 2019 in Ghana was 0.55%, 14.30%, and 8.36% among pre-school children, adolescents, and adults, respectively.
My mission is to help facilitate my organisation to establish a uniform and fair approach to the effective prevention and comprehensive management of Hepatitis among people and their families in Ghana.
What are the biggest challenges facing the health of people who use drugs in Ghana?
There are many. On an individual level, it is difficult to access education about drug use and harm reduction. There are also many personal beliefs to contend with when it comes to accessing drug treatment and care for hepatitis C and other infectious diseases. Family and peer pressure can also be challenging.
At a community level, stigmatisation in the media plays a part, as does the availability of drugs, cost of drugs, urbanisation, slum communities and other cultural factors all dominating.
During your career so far, how has HCV treatment/care/diagnosis improved?
The community here in Ghana still has little understanding of HCV due to the lack of education and campaign for it. While HCV testing is available in public hospitals and clinics, this is mostly for pregnant women. For others, it is available but on individual request and cost. It’s the same with harm reduction interventions which are usually available in well-resourced private facilities.
When it comes to HCV (and other infectious diseases) for people who use drugs – what would you like the future to look like?
In the near future, people who use drugs must not be seen as criminals. In Ghana, we shouldn’t be throwing them into prison, but rather, ensuring health insurance covers them to either in treatment or prevention.
Scientific data of people who use drugs should be made available for the decision making process in order to allocate national budget for HCV.
Mr Mohammed Kofi Yasimo will be attending INHSU 2021 in October virtually and is interested in meeting with people for potential collaboration on a future prisons project. For more information about Hepatitis Foundation of Ghana visit www.hepatitisghana.org