Eliminating HCV by 2030

Eliminating HCV would mean identifying and treating 10,000-20,000 infected people per year until 2030.Eliminating HCV would mean identifying and treating 10,000-20,000 infected people per year until 2030.

The prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is relatively low in Iran according to the population-based epidemiological studies, and the country also has the lowest prevalence rate of liver diseases among regional states.

“But even the low rate is not acceptable and we are determined to eliminate HCV in Iran by 2030,” said hepatologist Seyed Moayed Alavian, who established the first hepatitis clinic in 1995 at the Iranian Blood Transfusion Organization in Tehran.

Speaking at a recent international seminar on ‘New Diagnostic Technologies for Infectious Diseases and HCV’ in Birjand, Sistan-Baluchistan Province, he said hepatitis C prevails in less than 0.5% of the population or 180,000-230,000 people, mostly living in the southeastern province.

The seminar aimed to provide a platform to share the newest achievements in diagnosis and prognosis of the disease and over 400 researchers and experts, including several members from the Italian Society for Infectious Diseases, attended the event.

Organized by Birjand University of Medical Sciences, 10 specialists in the field delivered keynote speeches on the prevalence, treatment and prevention methods, as well as plans for elimination of hepatitis.

“Eliminating HCV would mean identifying and treating 10,000-20,000 of infected people per year until 2030.”

HCV is covered by health insurance which provides for inexpensive diagnostic tests and the essential medication for the entire treatment course. This will pave the way for reaching the target within the set period. A domestically produced antiviral biosimilar Interferon (IFN)-based medicine has been introduced under the name ‘Sovodak’ for HCV treatment.

Professor Alavian, who is also the director of Iran Hepatitis Network, said the prevalence of hepatitis B is 1.7% in all the provinces except Sistan-Baluchestan, Khorasan Razavi and Golestan where the rate is a little above 2%.

“All health houses and health stations across the country are cooperating to identify, treat and prevent new cases of HCV.”

The hepatitis B vaccination program launched 20 years ago saw the dramatic decline in its rate.  At present, it covers 98% of all newborns making the disease extremely rare in the under-20 age group. All medications for hepatitis B are also domestically produced and covered by insurance.

 NOhep Movement

On the sidelines of the one-day event, members of Iran Hepatitis Network and the Italian Society for Infectious Diseases officially joined the World Health Organization (WHO) movement called ‘NOhep’ launched on July 19.

The launch follows the recent adoption of the WHO Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis which has been fully endorsed by the 194 WHO member states, who have all signed the goal to eliminate hepatitis B and hepatitis C as public health threats by 2030.

NOhep aims to unite people working in the field of hepatitis and others throughout the world around one common purpose: the elimination of viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. Each year, 1.4 million die globally and the 400 million people living with the disease could eventually suffer from liver disease, cirrhosis or liver cancer, if left untreated.

 Changing Patterns

The rate of HCV infection is increasing due to the growth in the number of injecting drug users in the society. Given the relatively young age of the HCV infected people, timely intervention is necessary to reverse the trend.

The main routes of hepatitis C transmission are primarily by needle-sharing with infected people and also mother-to-child in childbirth. Since 1996, all donated blood is screened for HCV in Iran and therefore the risk of acquiring HCV infection from transfused blood has been reduced to almost zero.

According to the WHO, in 2013, viral hepatitis was a leading cause of death (1.46 million) worldwide, a toll higher than deaths from HIV, tuberculosis or malaria). More than 90% of this burden is due to infections with HBV and HCV. Globally, between 130 and 150 million people have chronic HCV infection.

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