I’ve been playing online a bit lately with the Wolfram Alpha search engine. The service isn’t a search engine like Yahoo or Google, but it instead searches sites for infomation and statistics that match your criteria and puts together a page of its own.
Although Wolfram is a bit twitchy it's still in its early stages of development. It did come up with some interesting information that has got me thinking about HepB.
So I did the usual stuff first, Wolfram suggests getting used to it by entering birthdates and places, but being me it was only about 5 minutes before I typed in HIV UK, this came up with the scary figures of 187 deaths a year here in the UK and 2.917 million deaths worldwide. This was alongside a load of other information.
So next I typed in HepB. The figures for this are just as scary but for a different reason. HepB is an avoidable infection. While you can’t be vaccinated against HIV, you can be vaccinated for HepB. This of course means that the bulk of the deaths and lost life years (2.168 million lost life years per year) shouldn’t be happening.
The World Health Organization have recommended a worldwide vaccination programme to wipe out HepB.
Routine vaccination of all infants against HBV infection should become an integral part of national immunization schedules worldwide …
…Catch-up strategies targeted at older age groups or groups with risk factors for acquiring HBV infection should be considered as a supplement to routine infant vaccination.
WHO position paper on Hepatitis B Vaccination July 2004
But this is of course expensive, which is a good excuse for poor countries. But not for ours. If we can afford to pay politicians expense claims for cleaning a moat, then we should be able to pay out enough to give people those three lifesaving jabs, and I don't just mean injecting drug users (who should already have free access) but to everyone.
Nigel Brunsdon is the owner of Injecting Advice.com. He's been working in harm reduction since the 1990's, although he's previously a frontline needle programme worker he now spends most of his time developing online resources for drugs workers and users.