6 March 2018

Rwanda: Government Rolls Out Free Access to Hepatitis Treatment

Government has begun offering free access to viral hepatitis treatment to all Rwandans, a decision that Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) says is aimed at reducing viral hepatitis morbidity and mortality in Rwanda.

According to a statement signed by Jeanine Condo, the director general of RBC, hepatitis continues to be a major public health burden, and that government is continuously putting in place initiatives to allow financial and geographical accessibility for hepatitis prevention, care and treatment services.

"Therefore, free hepatitis B and C treatment and viral load will be offered to all Rwandans by citizenship from 1st March 2018 till 31st July 2018, upon presentation of a national ID [identity card] and a copy of the patient enrollment," reads part of the statement.

The new move will see the free treatment expanded from the prevailing arrangement that started last year which only benefitted specific categories of Rwandans depending on their categories in the social stratification programme, Ubudehe.

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver that is commonly brought about by the patient's lifestyle.

Many illnesses and conditions can cause inflammation of the liver, for example, drugs, alcohol, chemicals, and auto-immune diseases. But certain viruses cause about half of all hepatitis in people.

Currently, hepatitis B and C are responsible for 96 per cent of all hepatitis mortality.

This new directive, they say, is part of the government's commitment to accelerate the response to viral Hepatitis B and C, as well as facilitate patients already identified with chronic Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and HCV to access treatment.

The statement which is addressed to all district, provincial and national referral hospitals indicates that all Rwandans by citizenship, chronically infected by hepatitis B and C virus and eligible for free diagnosis and treatment, without any consideration.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Global hepatitis report indicates that viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015, a number comparable to deaths caused by tuberculosis and higher than those caused by HIV. However, the number of deaths due to viral hepatitis is increasing overtime.

Globally, in 2015, an estimated 257 million people were living with chronic HBV infection, and 71 million people with chronic HCV infection.

Last year, RBC embarked on a campaign where vaccination, screening and confirmation were conducted and resulted in an estimated 9,000 HCV chronic patients and 722 chronic HBV patients that needed to be linked to care and treatment.

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