The Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) is partnering with the Sindh health department to eliminate hepatitis C, a blood-borne liver infection that can be deadly if not diagnosed on time.
During a signing ceremony held at AKUH on Saturday, the Sindh government announced its commitment to support the screening, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C patients at AKUH medical centres in Benazirabad and Larkana.
The hospital has taken a leadership role in eliminating hepatitis C in Pakistan through various initiatives. It has also committed to screening and treating all its employees for hepatitis C this year.
It offers affordable, high-quality screening, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C through its Patient Welfare Programnme at its medical centres in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.
“This is an important step in eliminating hepatitis C in Sindh. This disease is prevalent in Sindh and many of those suffering are extremely poor,” said Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho at the ceremony. “I am grateful to join hands with the Aga Khan University Hospital, which is known for its robust care and quality and we hope to get into other such high-impact public-private partnerships with the Aga Khan University Hospital to expand this programme to include other cities including Karachi and also work together to eliminate other diseases.”
Dr Faisal Wasim, an assistant professor of gastroenterology at the department of medicine at AKUH, emphasised that while those treated and cured from hepatitis C can go back to living a regular life, patient cooperation is essential for successful treatment.
“Hepatitis C is curable if diagnosed in the early stages and if treated properly. While the duration of the treatment we offer is three months, patients are required to be proactive in taking their medication, adopting safe behaviour, getting tested regularly and routinely consulting with their doctor.”
The screening and diagnosis of these patients will be done at AKUH’s clinical laboratories and doctors’ consultation and medicines will be provided from the AKUH outpatient medical centres located in Benazirabad and Larkana. The government expects about 6,500 patients to receive treatment under this partnership.
In Pakistan, over 20 million people are infected with hepatitis B and C. Due to lack of awareness about the disease, insufficient preventive measures and shortage of treatment facilities, the prevalence of hepatitis is much higher in Pakistan as compared to other parts of the world.
Eliminating hepatitis C is a global health and development priority under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The hepatitis C virus affects between 70 and 150 million people, globally. People living with the disease are at risk of developing liver complications, including cirrhosis and liver cancer, resulting in an estimated 700,000 deaths annually. Studies show that hepatitis C can present itself in other ways, including cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic and central nervous system diseases.
AKUH also received a trailer from the health department with a mammography machine that will be upgraded to the latest technology. AKUH will provide low cost mammograms as part of its breast cancer early detection and prevention programme.