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Help finally here for hepatitis C patients

Kenyans living with hepatitis C will now for the first time get easy treatment, the National Aids and STI Control Programme (Nascop) has announced.

Nascop says the treatment which goes by the name Harvoni and contains a combination of Ledipasvir and Sofosbuvir antiviral medication, is timely considering the rate of hepatitis C in Kenya where it currently stands three times higher than that of HIV. Harvoni is used to treat ailment in both adults and children.

Nascop officials, however, said only 33 people undergo treatment process with less than 200 on their waiting list. The agency called for government intervention in making the drugs accessible to individuals infected.

Speaking during a media round-table ahead of World Hepatitis Day to be held on July 28, Nascop Key Populations Programmes manager Helgar Musyoki said the treatment would be affordable for a massive programme that the Ministry of Health needs to adopt.

“Most patients have to purchase their own drugs unlike HIV, where there is a strong donor and government support programme. The treatment for hepatitis C takes 12 weeks and on average, the total cost for a patient will range at Sh150, 000,” said Musyoki.

She added that plans are underway to negotiate with manufacturers to have generic forms of the drugs instead of the original ones which are not affordable to most Kenyans.

Dialysis for hepatitis at its chronic stage is also costly as the country has a number of limited dialysis machines with Kenyatta National Hospital as the only public Hospital with the machine.

Others in Nairobi with the machine are Coptic Hospital and Nairobi Hospital. Among other interventions, Nascop wants Hepatitis B and C screening to be conducted at VCT centres as they are the two blood borne diseases Kenya is grappling with.

A 2015 survey in Nairobi and Mombasa by Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) and Kenya Aids NGOs Consortium (Kanco) found out that one in every three drug injectors, one is living with Hepatitis C.

An estimated 325 million people live with chronic Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C virus globally. A hepatitis report by the World Health Organisation shows that 1.34 million people died from the liver-damaging disease in 2015 because they did not have access to life-saving treatment.

In Kenya, hepatitis progression to chronic infection which can lead to liver cancer, liver failure and liver cirrhosis has a 90 per cent prevalence in children and five per cent in adults.

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