National Viral Hepatitis Control Program launched
Viral hepatitis is increasingly being recognized as a public health problem in India. While hepatitis A and E – that are water and foodborne infections – are often the cause for sporadic or outbreaks of hepatitis in India and recover completely with no clinical sequelae, hepatitis B and C can lead to chronic infection and thereafter sequelae like cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.
Viral hepatitis is a leading cause of death in the world, which is comparable to that of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, which are the sequelae of chronic hepatitis B and C, accounted for more than 90% of all hepatitis B and C related deaths. Further, mortality from HBV- and HCV-associated cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma is still increasing because of poor access to treatment. While prevention can reduce the rate of new infections, treatment eliminates existing infections; thus combining both prevention and treatment makes hepatitis B and C elimination feasible long-term goal.
Sh J P Nadda, Union Health Minister launched the ‘National Viral Hepatitis Control Program’ on World Hepatitis Day, 28 July 2018 with provision of free diagnosis and treatment for viral hepatitis through the National Health Mission. He said that “Government is strongly committed to work towards elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030”, a goal set by WHO. Thus it is of utmost importance to have standard National Guidelines that are robust, evidence based, and simple to be followed at the decentralized level. He also released 3 national Viral Hepatitis Guidelines, namely, National Viral Hepatitis Control Program Operational Guidelines, National Laboratory Guidelines for Testing of Viral Hepatitis and National Guidelines for Diagnosis & Management of Viral Hepatitis.
These guidelines are a outcome for the collective effort of the members of Technical Resource Group (TRG) on hepatitis Treatment, constituted by the MoH & FW, and that had representations of clinicians and program managers from across the country, representing different sectors (government, private sector, academic institutes, community members, development partners). The group has taken into considerations the latest available evidence, global guidelines (such as EASL, WHO etc) and taking relevant considerations from with the extensive experience of delivering services for Hepatitis C in the state of Punjab where around 50,000 patients have received free treatment under the scheme Mukh-Mantri Punjab Hepatitis C Relief Fund (MMPHCRF). Prof RK Dhiman, Head Department of Hepatology is serving as Chairman of Technical Resource Group for the National Guidelines for Diagnosis & Management of Viral Hepatitis.
Sh Manoj Sinha, MoS (Independent Charge), Ministry of Communication also released the commemorative stamp at the occasion.