India needs to change its attitude towards Hepatitis C

In India, the population prevalence of Hepatitis C is around 1 percent, which amounts to an estimated 12 million

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Deexa Khanduri | January 30, 2019 | Delhi


#Humsafar Trust   #liver   #FIND   #Hepatitis C   #World Health Organisation  


 It is estimated that between six million to 11 million persons are infected with Hepatitis C annually. In India, the population prevalence of Hepatitis C is around 1 percent, which amounts to an estimated 12 million. This was revealed at the Hepatitis C sensitisation workshop organised by Foundation of Innovative New Diagnostic (FIND) in New Delhi. 

Hepatitis C virus is spread via infected blood, body fluids, etc. The virus infects the liver and over time causes scarring of the liver. It’s an inflammation which can be self-limiting or progress, causing liver fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. It can also be contracted if someone comes in contact with the blood of someone who is affected and through the use of contaminated needles. 

“Hepatitis C is a common disease spread via infected blood, body fluids, unprotected sex, etc.  But, the societal attitude has not accepted hepatitis C as a common disease and has termed it a disease prevalent among LGBT community or people with open-mind. More awareness programmes needs to break the stereotype around Hepatitis C and people should stop labelling it with a particular community,” says Yashwinder Singh, programme manager, Humsafar Trust.
 
Dr Sanjay Sarin, Head, FIND India, says, “People connect the Hepatitis C as something more prevalent among people living in northeast area believing northeast has a high number of drug addicts. But, studies have clearly shown that the disease is more prevalent in North India, but, due to lack of studies, a patient dies a silent death of liver failure, without even knowing that he/she was suffering from Hepatitis C.”
 
The ministry of health affairs has collaborated with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to eliminate hepatitis by the 2030 and roll out the national viral hepatitis control programme wherein it has set up the national hepatitis cell at the central-level under the National Health Mission (NHM). Last year, the government declared Hepatitis C test cost-free in all government hospitals, in a private hospital the screening and confirmatory test of hepatitis C can cost anything between Rs 3,500 and Rs 5,000.
 
“The one who is at the higher risk includes healthcare worker exposed to infected blood, the child born to Hepatitis C-infected mothers and long term dialysis patients. But, we suggest everyone should test themselves with Hepatitis C test because, in more than 50 percent of the cases, the disease shows no symptoms till the last stage. Over 95% of the people with chronic Hepatitis C do know they are infected and therefore succumb to liver cirrhosis or cancer,” says Dr Sarin adding, “The treatment of Hepatitis C involves only 12 weeks medication.”
 
Only one out of ten people infected with Hepatitis C virus know their status, says Gagandeep Singh Grover, Punjab Hepatitis C programme officer.
 
“Only ten percent of the infected people know the status of their disease; anything could be the reason behind it. Lack of awareness, cost of medicine, not taking symptoms seriously, but it’s the responsibility of the government, and we’re committed to ending it by 2030,” Grover adds.
 

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