Introduction: The World Health Organization has called for the elimination of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) as public health threats by 2030. In response to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees requests, Rwanda became the first country to include refugees in its national viral hepatitis prevention and management program in 2019. We used secondary data to describe the implementation of the first HBV and HCV screening program among refugees in Rwanda.
Methods: Rapid diagnostic tests were used to screen for HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) and HCV antibody (anti-HCV). We used routine data collected during the HBV and HCV mass screening campaign among Burundian refugees living in Mahama camp and program records to estimate the screening coverage, the prevalence of HBV and HCV, and the cost of the campaign.
Results: Over 28 days in February and March 2020, 26,498 unique individuals were screened for HBV and HCV, reflecting a screening coverage of 77.9% (95% confidence interval [CI]=76.5%, 78.4%). Coverage was greater than 90% among women aged 30-64 years, but younger age groups and men were less likely to be screened. On average, 946 clients were screened per day. The prevalence of anti-HCV was 1.1% (95% CI=1.0%, 1.3%), and the prevalence of HBsAg was 3.8% (95% CI=3.6%, 4.0%). We estimate that the total cost of the campaign was US$177,336.60, reflecting a per-person-screened cost of US$6.69.
Conclusion: Conducting a mass screening was a feasible and effective strategy to achieve high screening coverage and identify refugees who were eligible for HBV and HCV treatment. This screening program in the Mahama refugee camp can serve as a reference for other refugee camps in Rwanda and elsewhere.
© Nyirahabihirwe et al.