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Press Release on Conference for Hepatitis Epidemic: The Future?

My name is Luqman Onikosi and I am Hep B positive.

I was diagnosed with Hep B in 2009 while studying Economics and International Relations at the University of Sussex. Since then I have lost a close friend, Shamsu Walli — a former student of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Sussex — to this dreadful, yet preventable and manageable virus, less than 3 weeks after his 29th birthday. I have also lost two siblings, Kolade and Harun Onikosi in the space of 4 months, in October 2011 and March 2012 respectively.

Over the last three decades, concerted human resources effort was thrown behind raising awareness of HIV/AIDS globally. However, other very dreadful viruses — especially Hepatitis — have been granted time to spread. Innocent children suffer with the misconception that there is no future, mother to child transmission is not prevented, friendships are strained, couples break up and families are torn apart because of inadequate access to the accurate information that would dispel the myths and stereotypes around Hepatitis and alleviate much suffering.

The two siblings, Shamsu Walli and me, are few numbers out of the 1 in 12 people that live with hepatitis worldwide. Over 2 billion of us come in contact with hepatitis a year but 350 million out of us go on to develop chronic Hepatitis 6 months after initial diagnosis. That is 8 times more people living with hepatitis than the 40 million living with HIV/AIDS. Sadly, more than 30% of these people, like me, will not have symptoms until we are on our dying bed.

Why I am concerned is that 1 in 70 live with hepatitis in the UK now. The number of cases in Brighton and Hove is twice the average for the South East. Meanwhile, research underscores that people suffering from chronic illnesses are faced with higher risk of depression, rated between 25-33%, greater than ordinary women- 10-25% and men- 5-10%. The annual report of the Director of Public Health Brighton and Hove 2012/13 indicates that migrants who are unable to work due to disability or ill health have higher risk of depression, at 85%, which is 18% higher than the unemployed or job seekers.

Section 21 of the National Assistance Act of 1948 compels the state to intervene in the life of a migrant if it deems that the human rights of that migrant are in jeopardy, and the state has to protect the dignity of the of the migrant, especially if a ‘no recourse to public funds’ clause is present on his or her visa or the person is at high risk of mental illness. Yet liver chronic illness is not recognised as disability and its impact on mental health is disregarded.

In response to this, the community group which I am part of, Hepatitis B Foundation –Brighton, with the support of Royal Pavilion and Brighton Museum, invites you to our free community panel discussion tagged:

‘Hepatitis: The Future?’

On the Monday 18 November at 5pm, Brighton Museum, Old Court Room,118 Church St (side entrance) BN1 1UD UK (opp Brighton Dome). With guest speakers:

1. Dr. Jeremy Tibble (Consultant Liver Specialist & Associate Chief of Medicine Brighton Sussex University –Hospital-NHS Trust)

What is Hepatitis?Its causes, characteristics, complications, transmissions and prevention.

2. Prof. Martin Fisher (Consultant in HIV and Genitourinary Medicine, Royal Sussex County Hospital, NHS Trust, Brighton)

The interaction between Hep B and HIV, and possibly Hep B vaccination

3. Nina Yeo (Refugee Radio – Resilience Panel Coordinator)

The effect of chronic illness on mental health, especially in the refugee and migrant community.

4. Paul Desmond (Director Hep B Foundation UK – London)

The limitation Resources and funding & support for people living with the virus and their families

The presentations will be followed by a Q&A. Please arrive promptly.

Light refreshment served

Thank you

Luqman Onikosi


Hepatitis B Foundation –Brighton