WASHINGTON – The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) says Guyana is scaling up efforts towards the elimination of viral hepatitis by launching its first hepatitis C treatment programme.
In marking World Hepatitis Day last week, PAHO said that Guyana is receiving rapid testing kits, as well as life-saving medicines.
“Viral hepatitis remains a global public health threat, and Guyana’s leadership is an opportunity to showcase the collaboration between national authorities, civil society and other stakeholders committed to its elimination,” said Dr Luis Felipe Codina, the PAHO/World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Guyana.
PAHO said Guyana’s new hepatitis C campaign, spearheaded by the Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony, is part of a global effort that comes after WHO member states endorsed goals to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.
These commitments were renewed earlier this year in the new Global Health Sector Strategies (GHSS) on HIV, STI and Viral Hepatitis by the World Health Assembly, PAHO said.
“In Guyana, data on hepatitis is primarily available from among blood donors, dialysis patients, and to some degree among HIV/STI patients,” said Dr Rainier Escalada, a PAHO Advisor on Health Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, who is working on the rollout of medicines for about 600 hepatitis C patients at the start of the campaign in Guyana.
Hepatitis is the general medical term for an inflammation of the liver, for which there are many causes. Viral transmission, such as for hepatitis B or C infections, takes up a significant share of cases and mortality globally.
It is estimated that 57 percent of cases of liver cirrhosis and 78 per cent of cases of primary liver cancer are due to hepatitis B or C, according to PAHO.
PAHO said a new-born that is vaccinated against hepatitis B in the first 24 hours of life will have lifelong protection.
It said while there is currently no vaccine against hepatitis C, which is a blood-borne infection, an effective (90 per cent) cure comes in the form of a three-month medical treatment consisting of orally ingested tablets.
According to PAHO, the high cost and a complex patent protection system, makes the hepatitis C treatment prohibitive for many countries in the region, but the organisation has been able to facilitate access to several countries.
World Hepatitis Day is observed each year on July 28 to raise awareness of viral hepatitis, which may lead to severe disease and liver cancer.
Globally, there are more than 350 million people still living with this life-threatening disease and it is estimated that every 30 seconds someone loses their life to hepatitis B or C
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also estimates around 5.4 million people living with hepatitis B and 4.8 million living with chronic hepatitis C in the Region of the Americas, which includes the Caribbean. (CMC)