Marking World Hepatitis Day on July 28, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) will start a social media campaign to urge health minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan to initiate a public health response to control this epidemic by beginning to test, diagnose and treat Hepatitis C. Messages to the Health Minister should be tweeted/posted to @drharshvardhan by adding #TestnTreatHCV to the tweets.
Hepatitis C (Hep-C or HCV) is a virus that can cause liver disease, and if untreated, can be fatal. It is a blood- borne virus that gets transmitted through unsafe injection practices; inadequate sterilisation of medical equipment and blood transfusions. Chronic HCV is a ‘silent killer’ as usually people do not have any symptoms until they have serious liver damage, which takes many years to develop. Many deaths from serious liver disease or liver cancer can be prevented with early diagnosis and treatment.
The nature of the disease has ensured that in India, Hep-C has remained a ‘hidden epidemic’. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 12 million people chronically infected with Hep-C in India, the majority of whom do not know their status. Yet, the cost (as high Rs 3,75,000/$6000) and complexity (24-48 weeks of injectables) associated with the current treatment has deterred many countries, including India, from investing in a testing and treatment programme for controlling this virus.
WHO released its guidelines this year for hepatitis C providing countries with a road map for screening and treating this disease. The guidelines include new oral drugs known as direct antivirals (DAA) that promise to revolutionise treatment with higher levels of cure, simplified regimens and fewer side effects. MSF India has started providing Hepatitis C treatment for a small number of people co-infected with HIV in its clinic in Mumbai.
EP News Bureau– Mumbai