Guyana to provide free treatment for persons living with Hepatitis C

Persons living with Hepatitis C will soon have their treatment fully funded by the Government of Guyana as the Ministry of Health partners with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to ensure treatment is provided.

Speaking at a mini health fair recently, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony acknowledged the challenges experienced by persons living with Hepatitis C, including the cost of treatment.

Minister of Health Dr Frank Anthony, speaking with reporters.

On average, at one point in time to treat a person with Hep-C was about US$80,000, that came down to about US $20,000, and now it is about US$2,000,” Dr. Anthony said.

The minister further explained that this initiative is part of the Government of Guyana’s strategy to reduce the spread of Hepatitis C which in the long-term can cause non-chronic diseases including cancer.

“We are bringing the treatment to Guyana at a high cost because these things are not cheap, but again if we prevent it from happening, then we will be in a better position, but those who are already infected, we are going to start a programme where we are going to treat these diseases. By treating them, we are preventing them from getting hepatic cancers because the natural course of this is that it moves from an acute Hep-C infection to chronic Hep-C infection, and over the years it will then become cancerous.”

Dr. Anthony noted that, “the medication that we are using is about 90 something percent effective, so that’s why we have taken a decision that we will be bringing in these meds, we will be starting treatment for those patients that we have on the database, so in a couple months’ time, we will start that process.”

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can cause liver inflammation (though not always). The virus usually spreads through contaminated blood, and can be sexually transmitted. The virus can begin with an acute phase which can go undetected, but may have symptoms like jaundice, fatigue, fever, muscle aches, or nausea.

Web Image showing a positive HCV result.

In Guyana, Dr. Anthony explained that one of the most common methods of detection is blood screen at the Ministry of Health’s blood transfusion facilities.

“We have been detecting patients through our blood transfusion services, so when we screen somebody who donated blood, we normally screen for a number of diseases including Hep-C and when the blood tests positive for Hep-C, we call those persons in, and we tell them that we have detected Hep -C and counsel them on the precautions to take.”

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 350 million people are living with this disease globally.

According to a statement from the World Hepatitis Summit 2022, “Stigma and discrimination continue to be a barrier to testing and care. Only 10% and 21% of people know that they live with chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C respectively, even fewer receive treatment, and liver cancer related to hepatitis is on an exponential rise, especially in low and middle-income countries.”