Chemistry students recognized For HCV awareness campaign competition
Graduate students from the chemistry department at the American University in Cairo (AUC) received second place honors for an awareness campaign created to educate Egyptians about HCV, the virus that causes hepatitis. The awards were presented at Cairo University, School of Medicine, as part of an HCV awareness conference organized by Egyptian universities, including AUC, Cairo University, Ain Shams University, Helwan University and the German University in Cairo. “This is the second HCV awareness campaign organized by AUC students,” said Hassan Azzazy, chair of the chemistry department and leader of the HCV research group at AUC. The first campaign was held last October where 800 individuals were surveyed and more than 400 members offered free HCV testing.
Preliminary competition activities started in February with a series of training programs for the 120 conference participants. Project management training was provided by the American Chamber of Commerce. Students also received training on medical aspects of HCV infection, which was conducted by Azzazy and hosted by AUC on Downtown and New Cairo campuses.
The first round of the competition took place in March when 13 teams presented their plans and ideas for the HCV awareness campaigns. Six of the original 13 teams were qualified to the final round. The AUC team, Faten Farouk, Zahraa Foraida, Nihal Abo El Azm, Walaa Wahby, Dina Nemr and Amr Zeid, chose to launch its awareness campaign in Manhara village in Ahnasia Center, Benisuif Governorate, a poor area known to have a very high infection rate of HCV.
During the campaign, the AUC team visited more than 50 homes, educating family members on HCV and offering health packs of razors and toothbrushes as gifts to promote personal hygiene. The team also targeted barber shops and school children in Manhara with distributed brochures and health packs.
Another major campaign activity was free HCV testing. More than 130 individuals were tested for HCV. The team offered advice on how to deal with people and family members who are HCV positive in order to minimize disease transmission. As a response to this campaign, a new group named Know your Enemy was formed by university students in the village to carry on the awareness message. This group was supplied with extra brochures, family health packs and notebooks. In addition, ten families within the village were designated as “Guiding Families” who will continue to educate community members about HCV and measures for prevention and treatment.
“The HCV awareness campaign in Manhara resulted in significant increase in community awareness about HCV, improved hygiene standards in barber shops, and both testing and education for people infected with the disease,” explained Azzazy. “This makes the campaign effective kernel for enhancing the awareness and control of HCV in one of the disadvantaged villages in Egypt, and a springboard for further activities.”
According to Faten Farouk, team leader of the HCV campaign, the key factor of this campaign is sustainability. “During this campaign, we learned that we should not underestimate people’s thinking abilities no matter from what background they come from,” said Farouk, adding that youth have the greatest potential to create change.