Urge for expansion of Hepatitis C Treatment in Myanmar
Date : 15-Aug-2019 15:13 pm
July 28, 2019
Alliance Myanmar supported the statement by Médecins du Monde (MdM) for calling to expand the Hep C treatment in Myanmar on World Hepatitis Day.
The statement is as follow.
Hepatitis C: We must support people who inject drugs in Myanmar
On World Hepatitis Day, Médecins du Monde (MdM) and its partner organizations, Save the Children International, Metta Development Foundation, National Drug User Network-Myanmar and Alliance -Myanmar urge expansion of Hepatitis C prevention and treatment services for people who inject drugs (PWID) and other people at high risk of infection.
According to the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS), an estimated 95,000 people in Myanmar inject drugs. More than half of them (56%) are living with hepatitis C virus (HCV), a deadly blood-borne infection. Despite the efforts of MOHS and partners, access to live-saving treatment remains extremely limited in Myanmar, particularly for PWID.
The new direct-acting antiretroviral (DAA) treatments can cure hepatitis C within 3 months, have less side effects and have become more affordable, but many barriers to prevention and treatment services for PWID remain. These include limited health literacy, low coverage of PWID-friendly health care services in remote areas and costs for required lab tests. Although the cost of treatment has decreased to around 1,500,000 MMK, this is still too expensive for many PWID.
Stigma towards drug use is also a big challenge. PWID are often arrested and harassed, driving them into self-stigmatization. They may exclude themselves from their families and society, limiting even more their access to health care and treatment. PWID take the worst of Myanmar’s Hepatitis C infections, yet they have very limited opportunities to access treatment.
In collaboration with Médecins Sans Frontières Switerland (MSF –CH), MdM has started offering Hepatitis C prevention and treatment in Kachin in 2019. Through this program, MdM and MSF-CH will help improve access to treatment for Myanmar’s most vulnerable populations. This effort is made possible thanks to generous support from private donors and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Sports.
Ko Htein Linn (not real name), injecting drug user who is taking Hepatitis C treatment from MdM shared: “I have been knowing my Hep C positive status for a long time but I can’t get the treatment due to my financial situation. Sometimes, I cannot go to hospital even in the situation of serious illness if I need to be hospitalized because I have no family to support me. Now, I that I get the treatment from MdM, I feel lucky as my hope is becoming reality. There are a lot of friends in my environment who will be in a similar conditions and some are already dead. When I finish the treatment and will be healthy, I will go and encourage them to access the treatment and I would like to see more of these treatment program in the future”.
Myanmar has made important progress expanding access to hepatitis C prevention and treatment services. However, if we are meet the global health strategy goals to reduce new infections by 90%, and to cure 80% of people living with hepatitis C by 2030, we must improve availability and accessibility of hepatitis C prevention and treatment services, especially for PWID. We urge donors, local stakeholders, civil society, and the Ministry of Health and Sports to redouble efforts to provide hepatitis C treatment and care services for all vulnerable people in Myanmar.