On the 26th of July 2019, Alliance for Public Health in partnership with local organizations in over twenty cities of Ukraine held an all-Ukrainian awareness raising event dedicated to the World Hepatitis Day observed on July 28 every year.
During the event, anyone willing had the opportunity to take a free rapid test for hepatitis C virus at mobile ambulatories, get a qualified consultation from doctors and social workers, read information on transmission paths, specifics of the testing, prevention and treatment of viral hepatitis.
In the nearest time, it is planned to test about 3 thousand people for HCV as a part of the all-Ukrainian event. That number includes 500 people to be tested during the central event in Kyiv near the Peoples’ Friendship Arch, close to the newly opened Bicycle-Pedestrian Glass Bridge. For this purpose, 4 mobile ambulatories staffed with respective medical personnel were working there today. Results of the anonymous rapid testing were available in 10-15 minutes.
According to preliminary results, 18 of 196 tests (9%) proved positive, including 11 persons (6%) who learnt about their problem for the first time! (the information is updated)
Experts estimate that over 300 million people around the world suffer from viral hepatitis, incl. 71 million people with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Every year, more than one million people around the globe die from viral hepatitis.
Ukraine is among the “leaders” in terms of incidence of hepatitis B and C in Europe. According to WHO and national experts, 3% to 5% of Ukrainian population (more than 2 million people) are infected with hepatitis C. 90% of the infected are not aware about their condition, as hepatitis virus can live in human body for years, ruining human’s health.
However, in case of timely diagnosing and beginning of treatment, hepatitis C is not a deadly disease. Modern medications allow successful treatment of most patients.
This is why organizers of the event tried to emphasize the importance of spreading reliable information about viral hepatitis (Know!); draw people’s attention to basic prevention measures (Prevent!); and stress the importance of testing for viral hepatitis, as this is vitally important to prevent late stage disease manifestations (Get tested!). The times when treating HCV was extremely expensive and ineffective have passed — new, effective medications are available now (Get treated!).
Several years ago, Alliance for Public Health implemented a program of highly effective HCV treatment with modern direct-acting antivirals. At the time, they were largely unknown in Ukraine. Their advantage is in being well-tolerated by patients, causing almost no adverse effects and providing very high effect through a three-month treatment course!
“In the last 4 years, under an innovative pilot project of the Alliance, almost 2.2 thousand people from among the most vulnerable populations in 19 oblasts of Ukraine have received services of diagnostics and free treatment of viral hepatitis C with modern drugs. Thanks to that, 98% of patients have completed the full course of treatment and 95% have been cured. Recently, we have provided HCV testing for 1000 inmates of Ukrainian prisons and further diagnostics and treatment for 50 inmates, of whom 49 have also been cured. Unfortunately, it has been three years since Ukraine had a special state program to fight viral hepatitis, but the resources available for the state now allow completely solving the problem”, said Pavlo Skala, Policy and Partnership Director of ICF Alliance for Public Health.
Continuous work to reduce the prices has now made modern medications affordable for Ukrainians. The Ministry of Health procures drugs at world’s lowest prices. According to the MoH, the largest batch of HCV drugs in the recent years has been procured and is already being distributed to the regions. In the nearest future, over 7 thousand patients will be able to receive free innovative treatment involving taking pills daily for three months.
Taking a rapid test for viral hepatitis takes 10 minutes and can be done even at home — for that you need to buy a usual rapid test at a pharmacy. Just keep in mind that a positive result of a rapid test for HCV is not the final diagnosis. You need to see a doctor immediately!
“Know! Prevent! Get tested! Get treated!”
National hotline on viral hepatitis: 0-800-50-33-10
(all calls are toll-free within the borders of Ukraine)
According to expert estimates, more than 2 million Ukrainians are infected with hepatitis C and over 600 thousand – with hepatitis B. According to official data of the MoH of Ukraine as of 01.01.2019, there are 82 564 persons in Ukraine with HCV and 23 687 with HBV, which is 5.2% and 3.4% of the estimated numbers respectively. This means that the other infected people are unaware of their diagnosis, as in 80% of cases the disease is asymptomatic.
One of priority activities of ICF Alliance for Public Health is fighting the spread of the epidemic of hepatitis C virus in Ukraine and providing diagnostics and treatment of HCV for vulnerable populations. Since 2015, it has been the support from the Alliance that allowed hundreds of HCV patients to receive modern treatment free of charge, after which the MoH of Ukraine started procuring similar medications with public budget funds.