“Hepatitis C is curable. Caring for health in a new way!”: pan-Ukrainian event
On July 28, the nationwide event “Hepatitis C is Curable. Caring for Health in a New Way!” was held in Kyiv and 30 other cities of Ukraine. The event was conducted by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine within the We Demand Treatment! Campaign. Support was provided by the International Renaissance Foundation’s Public Health Program Initiative.
Thousands of people got an opportunity to have free testing, obtain more information about Hepatitis C, virus transmission risks, listen to the stories of people who have already overcome the disease, and heard about the ways out of the critical situation with viral Hepatitis spread in Ukraine and the world.
“Most people do not even know they are infected. In 80% of the cases the disease is asymptomatic and can quickly progress into a chronic stage which evolves into cirrhosis or liver cancer. Every person is at risk of infection during blood transfusion, thorough non-sterile medical and cosmetology instruments. I strongly recommend that people get tested, receive a doctor’s consultation and get registered so that they are successfully treated and cured,” said Tetyana Yegorova, chief of the infectious diseases ward for Hepatitis C patients of Kyiv City Clinical Hospital No. 5.
Tetyana Afanasiadi, a patient with Hepatitis C since 2000, is already receiving the treatment thanks to the Alliance-Ukraine project. “As recently as 2 years ago I had 3rd stage liver fibrosis, which is difficult to treat. However, in spring I started taking medicines and already received a positive result: no HCV is detected in my blood. I feel great. I do not have any side effects and I’m starting to recover. I am very grateful for this chance and call upon everybody not to be afraid, get tested, register and obtain successful treatment, as I did,” she said.
The funds allocated by the state within the target program are drastically scarce to ensure robust response to the epidemic, experts say.
“I hope that the first steps made by the state will be carried on, and I’ll have a real chance to recover, while my children will no more fear to lose their mother. There are lots of people like me, we all are waiting for the accessible treatment,” said Olena Sakhnovska, HCV-infected mother of 2 children.
“To overcome the epidemic every involved party must take concrete steps: the Government must ensure adequate funding of the relevant state program; pharmaceutical companies must decrease prices for life-saving treatment and facilitate the entry of innovative Hepatitis C treatment medicines into the Ukrainian market; finally, we should have regular testing, if necessary, apply for appropriate diagnostics and get registered to obtain treatment timely,” said Serhiy Filippovych, Associate Director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine.
“Hepatitis C is the next epidemic which can in a few years become a more serious problem than HIV/AIDS”, the WHO alerts. About 350 million people in the world are infected with HBV and approximately 140 million with HCV. Ukraine has the fastest spread of HCV in Europe.
However, the extremely high price of Hepatitis C treatment remains one of the greatest barriers for access to treatment.
In 2013, thanks to the joint efforts of international organizations, the public, activists, experts and doctors, the first steps were taken to make viral Hepatitis C treatment more accessible:
· the price for a standard treatment course decreased from USD 14,000 to USD 5,000;
· the first 100 patients are already being treated within the Alliance-Ukraine project with the support of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria;
· in their turn, the state and local budgets have procured the first course of treatment for patients at a reduced price under the State Target Social Program on Viral Hepatitis Prevention, Diagnostics and Treatment;
· oblast programs for prevention, diagnostics and treatment of viral Hepatitis are already adopted and enacted in 8 oblasts.
International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine
(+380 44) 460 54 85