India rolls out National Viral Hepatitis Control Program

  • Our aim is to provide paperless and pocket-less health care for all: Ashwini Choubey, MoS Health
  • I am a living example of a Hepatitis B victim; need to pay a lot of attention to detection, treatment and public awareness: Amitabh Bachchan
  • Technical Guidelines for Diagnosis and Management of Hepatitis B will help ensure consistency in diagnosis and treatment of the disease: Union Health Secretary

Mumbai:

In line with the Government of India’s deep commitment towards elimination of viral hepatitis, the “National Action Plan – Viral Hepatitis” was launched by Union Minister of State, Health & Family Welfare, Ashwini Kumar Choubey in Mumbai on Sunday. Minister for PWD and Public Health & Family Welfare, Government of Maharashtra, Eknath S. Shinde; and Guest of Honour and Goodwill Ambassador for Hepatitis, WHO SEARO region, Amitabh Bachchan were also present on the occasion.

The Minister also released the Technical Guidelines for Diagnosis and Management of Hepatitis B.

The NVHCP website was also launched on the occasion; the same can be accessed here

The dignitaries distributed antiviral drugs for hepatitis to some select citizens.

Addressing the gathering, the Union Minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey said: “Today, we have taken a pledge to fight hepatitis; while we have done this in the presence of hundreds of people, the message should go to crores of people”. He Says, “The aim is to eliminate hepatitis by 2030. I am confident that the programme will be successful. India plans to have a decentralized health management for hepatitis, which is necessary for effective treatment. An integrated plan is being prepared, with the involvement of doctors, experts and state governments”.

Goodwill Ambassador for Hepatitis, WHO SEARO region, Amitabh Bachchan said:

I am here today because I am a Hepatitis B victim. While shooting for the film Coolie, I got injured and required a lot of blood; the blood given by 200 donors saved my life, but one of the donors was carrying the Hepatitis B virus. The detection process for that virus was not in order at that time, and that went into my system. This was discovered only in 2005, when I came to know that 75% of my liver had been destroyed. I am a living example of a Hepatitis B victim. I want to know the impact of the campaigns; we had done a similar campaign against polio, and now India is now polio-free. I am a TB survivor too. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone since TB is normally regarded as a disease contracted by those living in disadvantaged backgrounds; however, if its treatment is done timely, it can be cured. We must pay a lot of attention to the process of detection of these diseases; because if it is detected in time, it can be cured.

I got very interested when I came to know about the programme by Government of India. The need for dissemination of information about Hepatitis B is one thing which attracted me to the programme. Secondly, the factor of discrimination, particularly against women, made me sign in to this programme. I had heard many painful stories where women suffering from Hepatitis are evicted from the family. Women are half the power of our country; to be discriminated against just because they are carrying a Hepatitis B virus is not acceptable. I will fight for this as long as I am alive.”

“This is a start to fight against hepatitis together. Hepatitis is increasingly being recognized as an important public health problem. In India, the estimated burden of hepatitis is high, necessitating focus on prevention and control measures to mitigate morbidity and mortality arising out of hepatitis”, said Secretary, H&FW, Ms. Preeti Sudan

viral Hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths globally in 2015

Viral hepatitis is recognized as an important public health problem across the world. According to WHO estimates, viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths globally in 2015, a number comparable to deaths due to tuberculosis, worldwide. In India, it is estimated that there are 4 crore people suffering from Hepatitis B and 0.6-1.2 crore people suffering from Hepatitis C.

The National Action Plan was developed by experts from across the country, in line with India’s commitment and keeping the global perspective in mind. The Plan provides a strategic framework, based on which National Viral Hepatitis Control Program was framed and launched in July, 2018 under National Health Mission by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. This program is also in line with our global commitment towards achieving Sustainable development Goal (SDG) 3.3. India has affirmed this commitment at the 69th World Health Assembly.

India is one of the few countries in the world to roll out management of Hepatitis B and hepatitis C in a public health approach and offer free diagnostics and drugs lifelong to its beneficiaries.

Aim to Elimination of Hepatitis C by 2030

The aim of the program is to combat hepatitis and achieve countrywide elimination of Hepatitis C by 2030, achieve significant reduction in the infected population, morbidity and mortality associated with Hepatitis B and C viz. Cirrhosis and Hepato-cellular carcinoma (liver cancer) and Hepatitis A and E.

Integrating the interventions within the existing health systems framework under National Health Mission are further complementing the efforts of increasing access to testing and management of viral hepatitis.

Coordination and collaboration with other national programs and schemes to provide a promotive, preventive and curative package of services will further augment the government of India’s determined efforts towards achieving the goal.

Many countries have achieved outstanding coverage with the hepatitis B vaccine, scoring an early win for prevention. In India, Hepatitis B vaccine was introduced in the Universal Immunization Program almost a decade ago. Since healthcare workers and high-risk groups by virtue of their occupation and behavior are more vulnerable to acquiring infection, it is envisaged to extend the beneficiaries for this vaccine to healthcare workers and high-risk groups under the NVHCP. Focus under the program is also on screening of pregnant women for hepatitis B, in places where institutional delivery is less than 80%, to ensure provision of birth dose hepatitis B vaccination and Hepatitis B immunoglobulin, if required.

Another important strategy adopted by the program is propagating the use of Re-use Prevention (RUP) syringes in the country.

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