The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the Institute for Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) organized a daylong conference “Marching together to achieve Hepatitis C elimination – targets and action” today as a run-up to World Hepatitis Day 2019.
With over 70 million people infected globally, HCV is one of the world’s most common infectious diseases. It is estimated that 4 out of 5 people infected with HCV don’t know it. In order to address this significant disease burden, diagnosis of HCV followed by treatment with direct-acting antivirals (DAA) is critical. Through the HEAD-Start project funded by Unitaid, FIND is focusing on enhancing the availability and accessibility of HCV testing and this is being executed in a phased manner across five hospitals identified by the DGHS: Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya Hospital, Maharshi Valmiki Hospital, Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, and Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital. In New Delhi, the HEAD-Start project is implemented by FIND in close collaboration with ILBS. The project contributes to the development of a well-functioning network providing a decentralized diagnosis for HCV, with effective linkage to treatment centres in Delhi.
The conference saw the launch of the “Delhi Model” – a result of the HEAD-Start project, which highlights that decentralized screening and treatment management at the primary health care level is the way forward for tackling HCV in New Delhi. The “Delhi Model” underpins the work undertaken by FIND and ILBS under the guidance of the Directorate of Health Services (DHS), Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of NCT of Delhi. The booklet and a poster on HCV awareness was released by Dr Vikas Sheel, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare along with other dignitaries on the dais.
Dr S K Sarin, Director, Institute of liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) said, “The implementation of the NVHCP programme in Delhi has been possible, thanks to the support of FIND and the Government of NCT Delhi. ILBS has a great team which combines medical and operational capabilities. I would like to reiterate that we need to use elimination as a target and not just control. ILBS has taken a few steps – we are a WHO Centre for NVHCP – but we need to do more and reach out to unreached areas. So far, we have trained 4500 health workers and are running programmes for doctors on liver therapy areas through live cases and demos. ILBS would also like to offer our services through the UNAIDS to the African countries and Nepal. The Delhi Government has been a significant ally in all our initiatives – our steps are just a small drop as of now, so it is essential to march together as the journey really starts now.”
Acknowledging the combined efforts of organisations like ILBS and FIND, Dr Vikas Sheel, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said, “While access to basic treatment services is available, we intend to take this initiative further down to sub-district level, starting with all district hospitals, then block and PHC levels. We are going to start our national toll-free helpline for both TB and Hepatitis from 28th July 2019 to enable people to know more about the diseases and access treatment services. We are aiming to establish a patient registry service maintaining patient confidentiality through our website with the support of all key stakeholders. My emphasis is that all these joint efforts should reflect on the NVHCP portal – we need to do more on surveillance to control new infections and provide treatment to existing patients – all of us need to work together in this endeavour. Some of the key challenges before us are tackling stigma, providing varied solutions to empower people with information and treatment access. Injection safety is another key issue especially w.r.t to informal service providers – we, therefore, need practical solutions – convergence among various government programmes is also essential. Lastly, there needs to be a mechanism so that stakeholders come together more often share ideas, best practice models along with greater engagement to tap the capacities of the private sector.”