The Health Ministry on Thursday unveiled a national programme to eliminate Hepatitis C that will combine prevention with more effective treatment.
As part of the programme, an awareness campaign will be launched this year targeting the general population, high risk groups and medical professionals.
The programme, approved by Cabinet in April, is in line with the World Health Organisation’s strategic action plan with the ultimate aim of complete elimination by 2030.
The announcement comes three days before World Hepatitis Day on July 28.
Viral Hepatitis C is a huge global health risk, affecting millions of people around the world. About 80% of sufferers are undiagnosed. That is why the WHO has been focusing its campaign on ‘finding the missing millions’ so that they can be diagnosed and treated.
According to official figures of the Contagious Diseases unit of the Health Ministry, a total of 332 cases of Hepatitis C were reported in Cyprus in the period 2005 to 2018. An estimated 0.6% of the population is believed to have Hepatitis C, Health Ministry officials told a press conference.
Prevention will focus on raising awareness among the general public as well as high risk groups, such as injection drug users, prison inmates, migrants from countries with a high prevalence of Hepatitis C and homosexual men, they said.
It will also focus on early screening so as to identify new cases early and begin immediate treatment.
Hepatitis C can be treated effectively with a short course of drugs (8 to 12 weeks) leading to the full recovery of 95% to 98% of patients, they added.
As part of the programme, the Health Ministry has reached agreement with Greece’s Health Ministry to negotiate prices for innovative medicine to treat Hepatitis C — thus securing the necessary treatment at a lower cost.
Other aspects of the programme are the reorganisation of the health services for better monitoring and long-term care.