On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day on Thursday, legal experts, doctors and members of various non-government organisations expressed concern at the growing rate of Hepatitis B and C.
“In India, the prevalence of Hepatitis C is estimated to be in the range of 1.8-2.5 per cent. Studies conducted in different regions show that the prevalence of Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs ranges from 33 per cent, in places including Amritsar and Delhi, to almost 95 per cent in Manipur. Patients living with Hepatitis C lack access to affordable and appropriate treatment and care,” said noted lawyer Anand Grover.
Speaking at a press conference, he added that the failure of the Union Health Ministry to start prevention and treatment efforts is driving this hidden epidemic to grow in India. “It is time to hold the government accountable for protecting both public health and the right to health,” said Mr. Grover.
AIIMS assistant professor in the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre Dr. Ravindra Rao said that cost-effective measures of preventing the infection among those most vulnerable should be urgently scaled up in India and be made available to all. “This will ensure prevention of not only Hepatitis C but HIV as well,” he added.
The group also noted that Hepatitis C can be treated and cured with newer drugs in the pipeline, which will simplify the treatment regimen and improve cure rates. All patients, including people who inject drugs, must have access to these medicines. Yet numerous hurdles, from healthcare-setting discrimination to drug prices, still need to be overcome so that access to treatment is equitable and does not overlook people who use drugs.