The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has encouraged Hepatitis C patients to take advantage of free treatments for the disease.
Dr Atsu Godwin Seake-Kwaku, Programme Manager, National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme, GHS, said medication for Hepatitis C was high-priced thus, patients needed not to joke about the free treatment.
He explained that a 12-week course of treatment for the disease was GHC 5,500 –quite expensive for the ordinary Ghanaian.
He said this at a stakeholder meeting with health professionals on Hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment and how to eradicate the virus in the country.
The Programme Manager said Ghana was set to receive a donation of Hepatitis C medications from Egypt and urged patients to make good use of the drugs.
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). It damages the liver and causes it to develop liver cancer which is transmitted through contact with blood from an infected person, sharing of needles or other items used to manufacture and inject drugs.
The disease could be a short-term condition for some people but for more than half of those who contracted the virus, it developed into a chronic, long-lasting infection, which could also give rise to serious and life-threatening health problems like cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Dr Seake-Kwaku said because only a few people were aware of the existence of the disease, some testing facilities were underutilised and called for more Hepatitis C education and awareness campaigns.
Dr Yvonne Ayerki Nartey, a Senior Medical Officer at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, providing findings on the Hepatitis Evaluations and Amplify Testing ND Treatment Project, said the median age for Hepatitis C patients was 33 years, adding that more men were likely than women to contract the disease.
Dr Nartey said data indicated that 6.1 per cent of the virus was prevalent among pregnant women.
She called for an improved diagnostic treatment for virus-induced hepatitis.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) out of the 58 million persons living with HCV infection globally in 2019, an estimated 21 per cent (15.2 million) knew their diagnosis, and of those diagnosed with chronic HCV infection, around 62 per cent (9.4 million) persons had been treated with DAAs by the end of 2019.
Dr Kafui Senyah, representing the WHO Country Director, said eliminating Hepatitis C would require stopping transmission of the virus and reducing the risk of contracting the disease among people who were not infected.
He said for that reason the WHO had recommended the use of pan-genotypic direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for all adults, adolescents, and children down to three years of age with chronic Hepatitis C infection.
DAAs cure most persons with HCV infection, and treatment duration is short (usually 12 to 24 weeks), depending on the absence or presence of cirrhosis.
Despite the expensive nature of the medication in many low and middle-income countries, pangenotypic DAA regimen is sofosbuvir and daclatasvir. In many low and middle-income countries the curative treatment course is available for less than $50, Dr Senyah added.