Revisiting Hepatitis Policy

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WORLD Hepatitis Day was observed on Sunday with Pakistan being the host country this year to mark the day held a series of events across the country to raise awareness regarding the most common types of Hepatitis which cause significant morbidity and mortality in developing countries like Pakistan. The day indeed was the right time to put emphasis on taking strong policy measures to curb the disease that is one of the leading causes of deaths in the country.
Also addressing an event in connection with the day, President Arif Alvi called for reshaping the National Hepatitis Policy and indeed the focus of new policy should be on the prevention side and creating awareness amongst people regarding modes of its transmission, diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Pakistan has the second highest prevalence of HCV in the world. Hepatitis B and C together make 12 million infected people in the country. Transmission is primarily associated with poor infection control practices in the healthcare settings along with unabated community exposures. According to the official data close to 20 million people are unaware that they are living with the disease. In our country, each new year brings about 150000 new cases. This is the baseline we have to work with to eradicate this major public threat by 2030 in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Hence the new policy should give special importance to prevent the spread of these viruses by various preventive measures. If people do get affected by the Hepatitis, they must report to clinicians experienced in treating these viruses and trained in detecting and treating the Hepatitis. People must be educated to treat Hepatitis B, C and D before it affects the lives. It is a matter of satisfaction that medical advances and cheaper drugs have dramatically reduced the length of treatment and risks of side effects, and improved patient outcomes, in recent years. But we have to go a long way to make successful liver transplant centres in the country. We must also educate people to get treatment from medical practitioners for all types of hepatitis instead of going to quacks, hakims and spiritual healers.