Hepatitis C patients to get free treatment in J&K

In a significant development, the State Government has decided to provide free treatment to the Hepatitis C patients, under a centrally sponsored scheme.

A source said under National Program for Control of Viral Hepatitis six district hospitals across J&K have been designated as treatment centers while departments of gastroenterology at Government Medical Colleges (GMC) of Srinagar and Jammu have been notified as “model treatment centers”.

In Kashmir, the patients would be provided free treatment including medicines at district hospitals of Anantnag, Pulwama and Baramulla while as in Jammu, districts hospitals of Kathua, Dooda and Rajouri have been selected under the program.

While confirming it, Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education (H&ME) Atal Dulloo said the modalities for providing the treatment were discussed with officials from National Health Mission (NHM).

“It has been agreed that Hepatitis C medicines will be given free of cost at these hospitals,” he said.

The labs at these hospitals will be augmented under the central program to provide timely treatment, expedite and improve screening and diagnosis of viral Hepatitis, including life threatening Hepatitis B and C, said the official.

Dulloo added the move will ensure arrest of spread of the viral infections, without any financial burden on the patients.

The State Government has also constituted a committee to formulate a plan to stop hepatitis from spreading.

In this regard, the Health Department will start aggressive awareness campaign and undertake robust screening of people and management mechanism.

“People need to know about Hepatitis and its health ramifications and at the same time they need to be provided avenues for treatment and management of the diseases,” Dulloo said.

For long, owing to the high cost involved in treatment of the disease, Hepatitis C has spread silently in many villages of Kashmir.

While dozens of cases of Hepatitis C were reported from different some south Kashmir villages in 2012, there was no concrete mechanism to control its spread, particularly given the high cost of the treatment.

In 2017, a study by GMC Srinagar showed that 1 in every 4 people in Magam village of Kokernag had been infected with Hepatitis C virus.

In Anantnag district 3.8 percent population was infected with Hepatitis-C; 1.3 percent in Shopian; 1.2 percent in Kulgam and 0.7 percent in Pulwama.

In villages adjacent to Magam, the prevalence ranged between 0.4 percent and 1.9 percent. In Kulgam villages of Chawalgam and Chambgund, the prevalence was found to be around 1.8 percent.

The overall prevalence was a little higher in females (2.1 percent) compared to males (1.7 percent), as per the study.