GHS launches free hepatitis C treatment project
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has launched a national project to offer free hepatitis C treatment to affected persons.
Named the Screening and Treatment Opportunity Programme (STOP) hepatitis C project, it aims to link an initial 50,000 patients to free treatment across the country as part of efforts to eliminate the public health condition by 2030.
The government of Egypt and the Ministry of Health are assisting the GHS to run the programme.
The Egyptian government has so far presented 150,000 courses of medications for hepatitis C, Sofosbuvir and Daclatasvir which will be sufficient for the complete treatment of the initial 50,000 cases.
A Deputy Minister of Health, Mahama Asei-Seini, received the medications from the Egyptian Ambassador to Ghana, Aldesouky Mahmoud Youssef, and handed it over to the Director-General of GHS, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, who also handed it over to the Director Public Health of the GHS, Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, for onward distribution to appropriate stakeholders.
The deputy minister expressed the country’s gratitude to the government and the people of Egypt for their support.
According to the GHS, although four out of every 100 people sampled have the condition, the national response was plagued with the high cost of pre-treatment examinations and treatment and limited access to treatment.
Checks by the Daily Graphic showed that the pre-test examinations cost between GH¢2,000 and GH¢3,000, while treatment costs close to GH¢7,000, an amount beyond the reach of many people in the country.
In his welcome address at the launch of the project, Dr Kuma-Aboagye said the project brought hope to the thousands of Ghanaians living with the condition who did not have access to treatment or could not afford care.
He said hepatitis C remained a public health challenge the country had been battling with, particularly the high cost and limited access to pre-treatment and treatment.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said, however, that patients needed to pay the pre-treatment cost.
“There are four components of the project: linkage to care; strengthening hepatitis reporting systems; transitioning to long-term plan and project management,” he said.
Dr Kuma-Aboagye said stakeholders remained committed to the course until the condition was eliminated from the country.
He encouraged the public to know their hepatitis status to improve health outcomes and prevent long-term complications such as liver cancer.
Africa Project /Egypt’s journey to elimination
The Egyptian Ambassador to Ghana, in a remark, said the STOP hepatitis project formed part of Egypt’s Strategy to help eliminate Hepatitis C in Africa through experiences learnt from eliminating the infection in Egypt and the provision of medications for treatment.
He said in 2014, Egypt embarked on an aggressive screening and treatment programme that evolved into a national strategy that helped in the elimination of HCV as a public health threat.
“In 2015, Egypt’s HCV infection prevalence of seven per cent among adults was among the highest in the world and accounted for 7.6 per cent of the country’s mortality,” he said.
“At the 2019 African Hepatitis Summit, Egyptian Minister of Health and Population, Dr Hala Zaid, announced that Egypt would provide HCV testing and treatment for one million people in 14 African countries.