Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1412, (4 - 10 October 2018)
Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Issue 1412, (4 - 10 October 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Beating Hepatitis C

Egypt has launched one of the largest medical examinations in history, reports Ahmed Morsy

 

One of South Sinai’s medical centres photo: Hani Al-Asmar
One of South Sinai’s medical centres (photo: Hani Al-Asmar)

In February President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi announced an initiative to eradicate Hepatitis C from Egypt by 2020. Egypt has the highest prevalence of Hepatitis C in the world and the initiative involves a massive campaign that involves the free screening of 50 million people.

Nationwide medical screenings will be conducted in three stages. In addition to Hepatitis C, patients will be tested for hypertension and diabetes. Below are some key facts about the campaign.

Campaign time frame: The three-stage campaign will run between October 2018 and April 2019 in all governorates. The first stage, launched on Monday, targets 17 million citizens in the governorates of Alexandria, Port Said, Qalioubiya, Fayoum, Beheira, Damietta, Assiut, Marsa Matrouh and South Sinai, and will continue till the end of November. Units offering medical screening will work daily from 8am to 8pm.

The second stage will take place between December 2018 and February 2019 in the governorates of Cairo, Ismailia, Suez, Luxor, Aswan, Sohag, Menoufiya, North Sinai, the Red Sea, Beni Sweif and Kafr Al-Sheikh. Between March and April 2019 residents of Egypt’s remaining seven governorates, Giza, Gharbiya, Daqahliya, Sharqiya, Minya, Qena and the New Valley, will be screened.

Eligibility for screening: All citizens aged 18 years and above are eligible for the medical examination. Health Minister Hala Zayed has urged people to ensure all eligible members of their families are screened since the examination documents will be needed when completing government and other official papers.

Citizens can call 15335 for information about where and when examinations are performed.

Objective: The aim of the campaign is to eliminate Hepatitis C completely. Egypt has the highest rate of Hepatitis C infection in the world and the disease kills an estimated 40,000 Egyptians each year.

At least one in 10 of 15-to-59 year-olds are infected, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and 90,000 new cases are reported annually, placing a huge economic burden on the country. A campaign launched three years ago succeeded in treating two million patients and ended waiting lists; the goal now is nothing less than to end the disease in Egypt.

Time: Individual screenings will take a few minutes. The Health Ministry has already stockpiled 25 million rapid test kits. Each test involves a sample of blood being taken from the finger. The results show within two minutes, without any need for laboratory testing.

Results: If the result of the initial analysis is positive patients will be sent for further free check-ups. Should these confirm the original diagnosis patients will have access to Sovaldi and Daklinza, two advanced medications for Hepatitis C, free of charge.

Medicine: The price of Hepatitis C drugs on the market: The one-month course of locally-produced Sovaldi, 28 tablets, costs LE2,000 and has until now been available only through state-owned hospitals and not pharmacies. The price of imported Sovaldi costs an average of LE14,000. The treatment period lasts three months.

Developed by the US company Gilead Sciences, a 12-week course of Sovaldi can cost up to $80,000 on the international market. Egypt has successfully secured preferential prices for the medication to be made available through public hospitals.

Coordination: The campaign is being coordinated by 14 ministries, the National Elections Authority, the Central Agency for Mobilisation and Statistics, the Administrative Control Authority, the Tahya Misr Fund, the WHO and the Suez Canal Authority.

The World Bank is providing Egypt with technical support, $133 million for the screening campaign and $129 million for Hepatitis C medication.

Centres: There will be 1,412 test centres in the first phase, each staffed by four teams comprising a doctor, nurse and a data entry employee.

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