Over the years, India has been successfully combating and eliminating many deadly diseases. One disease that has still been enabled to receive the required attention for its elimination is Hepatitis C.
Despite working on its treatment it is found that Hep C in Punjab ranges (0.56-3.6%) HIGHER than the national average (0.32%)y. With a population of 29 million state-wide, around 1.5 million of its population are HCV-positive. Hence, the growing numbers have led to a higher risk of transmission among the coming generation, especially in Punjab.
A greater level of awareness is needed by the government and the people of India due to unsafe medical practices and intravenous drug usage in Punjab. Thus, to mitigate the risk of transmission, the state requires great attention to taking preventive measures in regard to eliminate the virus.
Learning about the growing statistics can help us collectively combat the risk of its asymptomatic nature. Let’s find the journey of this disease prevailing in Punjab and how the government is helping people to combat it early to prevent people from being infected.
A glance at the HCV disease
HCV is an RNA virus and is widely known for its ability to replicate and evolve within the host’s body. This notorious ability to replicate itself has contributed to the persistence of this virus over time.
This has led it to become a chronic infection. Persisting for many years, it often causes damage with unnoticeable symptoms. Hence it carries a silent nature in its infection and transmission.
Hepatitis C is typically a viral infection that affects the liver. It transmits through contact with infected blood. Infected individuals are not aware of its infection at its early stages. Thus, its infection leads to delayed diagnosis and severe liver damage.
Common modes of HCV transmission
The disease of HCV is primarily transmitted through coming in contact with the infected blood by any means. These could be-
Using contaminated blood – One of the most common modes of HCV transmission is through blood transfusion. Individuals who receive blood without taking safety measures are at a higher risk of contracting HCV.
Using infected needles – Sharing needles and syringes has been encountered as a major route of transmission among intravenous drug users.
Opting organ transplantation – HCV can be transmitted through a donated organ that carries the virus. The recipient becomes infected if the organ is not properly screened or tested.
Unsafe medical practices – In certain cases, unsafe medical practices, such as reusing needles or inadequately sterilizing medical equipment contribute to HCV transmission.
Reasons for an upsurge in cases of Hepatitis C in Punjab
While noticing that both medical and social factors contribute to its widespread. Some of the key contributing factors are listed below-
Injecting drugs – As we all are aware, Punjab has persistent issues with drugs. One of the primary drivers of the HCV pandemic in Punjab is sharing needles and syringes among drug users. Apart from drug use, ignorance of taking safety measures and unsafe medical injecting practices including the easy reuse of needles and syringes have become a potential source of infection.
Limited awareness – The lack of awareness about HCV and its modes of transmission has led to risky behaviors among the population of Punjab. Many individuals are not even aware of its transmission beforehand and don’t even opt for regular testing while some lack awareness of safe injection practices.
Limited access to health care – In rural areas, there are many barriers to timely diagnosis and treatment of HCV infection. Medications are extremely expensive which often causes the patient to become reluctant to opt for the required treatment.
Dense population – Punjab is considered to be a highly populated state in India. This has been a great reason for the rapid spread of this infectious disease that has been persistent over past few years.
Initiatives undertaken by the government to eradicate HCV
The HCV virus is highly diversified and has been classified into several genotypes. Genotype 3 is found to be prevalent in Punjab. Therefore finding health solutions such as antiviral treatments for these genotypes has become crucial for the government.
Thus the government has planned the strategies in accordance with addressing the HCV epidemic in the context of genotype 3.
Hence, several efforts of the government with regard to providing appropriate medications tailored to this genotype are listed below-
- By launching the Mukhyamantri Punjab Hepatitis C relief fund in 2016, the government took the initiative to provide free treatment for Hepatitis C to all infected patients in Punjab.
- By introducing the National Viral Hepatitis Control Program, the government is making efforts to expand the reach of testing and achieve the maximum elimination of the virus by 2030.
- Leading a great healthcare team with such initiates, over 1.5 lakh patients of Hepatitis C were screened and tested out of which 85000 were immediately put on treatment.
- The government has also been on a mission to provide the lowest possible cost of diagnosis. Thus, negotiating the prices with pharma companies and reducing the cost of the Hepatitis C drug Sofosbuvir, has played a critical role in providing affordable medications.
Additionally, working on such partnerships with pharma companies has hold great promise to treat Hepatitis C patients across India. Thus offering such affordable and accessible treatments will can further improve access to the virus treatment.
Government’s progression in eliminating HCV with right strategies
Currently, as of December 2021, a major shift has been accounted for treating people at 68 sites who are screened and are provided with access to healthcare services. The key strategy so far for this success has been through the rapid scale and decentralization of sites. This has offered HCV service over time which led to an increase in the diagnosis and treatment while reducing the cases successfully.
The state of Punjab has also pursued more active screening for identifying gaps and informing policymakers for alleviating the Punjab health burden of HCV infection across afflicted regions.
Thus, a combination of public health measures, education campaigns, improved access to healthcare, and stricter enforcement in medical facilities has led the government to move towards eliminating HCV in Punjab.
Unimark Pharma is an India Limited pharmaceutical company in Punjab. Using robust technology and advancements in pharma manufacturing, our company also contributes to eradicating many general illnesses by producing quality medications.
We work to support patients as well as the government in achieving the total elimination of HCV by 2030 by spreading knowledge and awareness about such deadly diseases while encouraging the government’s policies for disease control.
Respecting the efforts of the government, we have also come up with many affordable medications that are provided with the intent to increase their accessibility making Punjab a disease-free state in the country.