A report that was released in 2011 of about three million Ugandans being infected with Hepatitis B shocked.
An article that ran in the Daily Monitor on September 16, the same year, analysed the report further after it was stated that the virus was more infectious than HIV/Aids and that at least 10 per cent of Ugandans were currently suffering from it and were, therefore, in urgent need of a Hepatitis B vaccine.
Kenneth Kabagambe, the executive director of the National Organisation for People Living with Hepatitis B says the problem was that the vaccination was expensive.
“Each vaccine shot is about Shs35,000 and yet one is supposed to take a dose of three shots. How many Ugandans can afford this?” he explains. In this case, the saying that prevention is better than cure did come into play.
Kabagambe says he decided that a more affordable approach would be to teach the public to protect themselves against the infection. On plan to achieve this would be finding someone, an ambassador of sorts, to continuously sensitise the masses on the preventive measures of acquiring the virus.
“We approached different celebrities, mostly musicians, with the offer but they all turned us down, mainly because the ambassadorship position did not come with a salary,” he says.
He adds; “When we tried Jaq Deweyi, her response was very positive. She was willing to do the advocacy work as much as we were not going to pay her.”
Deweyi, a radio presenter on KFM and musician, started her ambassadorial work on May 9. She says the magnitude of the problem was what got her on board. “When it was explained to me how deadly and contagious the disease was, especially in places that are highly crowded, I was shocked. I thought it would be a privilege to be able to educate people about the disease, so I took it up, gladly,” she says.
As an ambassador, the 27-year-old is charged with sensitising members of the public on the facts about the virus, how it is transmitted, the signs and symptoms, and how to prevent it. Twenty days into her new role, Deweyi has for now taken to social media to dispense of her message.
In fact, one of her current Facebook posts reads “What should I do if I think I have just been exposed to hepatitis B? See a doctor immediately. Your doctor can give you treatment in some instances, which will reduce the risk of you becoming infected with hepatitis B.”
She posts these messages on a daily basis. “I chose to use social media because the biggest percentage of people, especially the youth, have Facebook accounts. It becomes very easy for them to access such information once I have it posted on my wall,” explains Deweyi.
I imagined this musician/radio presenter must know alot about the disease to be appointed amabssador, so I decide to test her knowledge of the infection.
Facts about the disease
First, I ask her what she knows about the virus. She pauses for a few seconds and starts tapping the table in front of her. She looks at me and I return back the stare.
She gives a deep sigh and then starts to speak; “One can contract the virus after having unprotected sex with an infected person, receiving a blood transfusion from an infected party, touching their body fluids such as sweat, and sharing sharp instruments like razorblades and nail clippers with infected people,” she says adding, “The common signs and symptoms of the virus include lose of appetite, yellowing of the skin, tiredness, nausea and manifestation of joint pains.”
Her feedback is fast and clear. Deweyi talks like some sort of music hip-hop rapper. Words just keep coming out of her mouth.
During her response, she also managed to chip in a little bit of laughter here and there. Like a true ambassador seizing an opportunity to impart a lesson, she then promises to send me more information by email.
Her day job
When she is not spreading the Hepatitis B message, Deweyi is a radio presenter and musician, albeit young on the scene. She presents the K-Zone, a late-night show on KFM, on which she is literally a love doctor.
“I enjoy doing my show because as a love doctor, I’m able to give advice to the different callers about their relationship problems,” she states, but adds that sometimes it gets too much and her work makes her sad. “I have to listen to people’s problems every day!” she says.