National Programme For Elimination Viral Hepatitis Launched

National Programme For Elimination Viral Hepatitis Launched

New Delhi, 25 Feb 2019: Union minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey launched a national programme aimed at eliminating viral hepatitis, recognized as an important public health problem across the world, on Sunday in Mumbai. The minister of state for health launched the "National Action Plan - Viral Hepatitis" in presence of Amitabh Bachchan, the goodwill ambassador for hepatitis, WHO South-East Asia Region.


Bachchan described how he contracted the disease, an inflammatory condition of the liver, when blood was transfused into him after he was injured during the shooting of "Coolie" in 1982.


One of the blood donors had Hepatitis B, the actor said, ruing that the detection process for the virus was not available then. He came to know about the condition in 2005.


According to WHO estimates, viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths globally in 2015, a number comparable to deaths due to tuberculosis, worldwide.


In India, it is estimated that there are 4 crore people suffering from Hepatitis B and 0.6-1.2 crore people suffering from Hepatitis C, a ministry statement said.


The action plan was developed by experts from across the country. It provides a strategic framework, based on which the National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme was framed and launched in July 2018 under National Health Mission by the Health Ministry.


"This programme is also in line with our global commitment towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.3. India has affirmed this commitment at the 69th World Health Assembly," Choubey said.


India is one of the few countries to roll out management of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C in a public health approach and offer free diagnostics and drugs lifelong to its beneficiaries.


The aim of the programme is to combat hepatitis and achieve countrywide elimination of Hepatitis C by 2030, he said.


The minister also released the Technical Guidelines for Diagnosis and Management of Hepatitis B.


In India, Hepatitis B vaccine was introduced in the Universal Immunization Programme almost a decade ago. Since healthcare workers and high-risk groups by virtue of their occupation and behaviour are more vulnerable to acquiring infection, it is envisaged to extend the beneficiaries for this vaccine to healthcare workers and high-risk groups under the National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme (NVHCP).


Focus under the programme is also on screening of pregnant women for hepatitis B, in places where institutional delivery is less than 80 pc, to ensure provision of birth dose Hepatitis B vaccination and Hepatitis B immunoglobulin, if required, the statement said.


Another important strategy adopted by the programme is propagating the use of Re-use Prevention (RUP) syringes in the country.


The NVHCP website was also launched on the occasion.


"Today, we have taken a pledge to fight hepatitis; while we have done this in the presence of hundreds of people, the message should go to crores of people," Choubey said.


Bachchan said, "I am here today because I am a Hepatitis B victim. While shooting for the film Coolie, I got injured and required a lot of blood; the blood given by 200 donors saved my life, but one of the donors was carrying the Hepatitis B virus.


"The detection process for that virus was not in order at that time, and that went into my system. This was discovered only in 2005, when I came to know that 75 per cent of my liver had been destroyed. I am a living example of a Hepatitis B victim."ET Healthworld