Aung Kyaw finally gets tested for hepatitis C

Aung Kyaw* lives in Yangon, Myanmar. A former taxi driver, at 34 years old he helps his parents run their traditional restaurant.

As an injection drug user, Aung Kyaw had known about the risks associated with injection drug use for several years, including the fact that people who inject drugs are at high risk for contracting the hepatitis C virus (HCV). However, the prohibitive cost of testing meant he had never been tested. It was at a methadone centre – where people addicted to opioid-based drugs can receive medication-based “replacement” therapy – that he heard about the HEAD-Start project being run by FIND, in collaboration with the Burnet Institute. Despite not having any symptoms at the time, Aung Kyaw visited the local clinic run by the Burnet Institute to get screened for HCV.

His screening test was positive, and his HCV diagnosis was confirmed using a point-of-care molecular test that gave him a result in less than 2 hours. Within 4 days of receiving his positive test result, Aung Kyaw started treatment – with no hospital queues to contend with, and free of charge.

Thanks to patients such as Aung Kyaw, the project has gained high levels of awareness and built trust among the community, which has led to high demand for HCV testing and treatment, as well as strong coordination and collaboration between the Ministry of Health of Myanmar, the World Health Organization and project partners. The FIND HEAD-Start project, in partnership with key organizations such as the Burnet Institute and the Myanmar Liver Foundation, will generate evidence to support decentralization of HCV diagnostics and care, and strengthen the HCV national strategic plan in Myanmar.

HEAD-Start is a project funded by Unitaid.

*Name has been changed.