With over 13 million cases of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) in India, NGOs Friday urged the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to include testing and treatment guidelines for the disease in its intervention targeted at HIV patients.
“HIV and HCV are transmitted in similar ways and it makes public health sense to link HCV prevention efforts to HIV programme. Also, prevention and harm reduction efforts for HIV and HCV with vulnerable communities should go hand in hand,” said Eldred Tellis, Director of Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust in Mumbai.
“Unless this is done, HCV infections will rise in India even though HIV transmission rates reduce, particularly among injecting drug users — the most vulnerable community,” Tellis said at a conference.
The most common risk factor for Hepatitis C infection, experts say, is intravenous drug use through sharing of contaminated needles. The disease is responsible for around one in four cases of liver cancer and 20 percent of chronic liver diseases.
“People living with HIV are increasingly being diagnosed with HCV co-infection. We need not only AIDS medicines but also access to HCV medicines from the government,”said Loon Gangte of the Delhi Network of Positive People.
If detected early, HCV can be cured. The disease causes inflammation of liver after infection.