Hepatitis C is a hidden epidemic. Globally, 130-150 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, and some 500,000 die as a result each year.
The burden of this liver disease falls most heavily on low- and middle-income countries, where 75% of infections and deaths occur but few people living with HCV have actually been diagnosed.
Better tests to more easily diagnose and monitor HCV are urgently needed to guide individual patient care, and to screen and test communities at risk. Existing tests are too complex and expensive for countries with limited budgets, weak health systems or both.
With new treatments that can cure people of HCV in just three months (compared to the older regimens that took up to a year and required injections), we have a unique opportunity to eliminate HCV as a public health problem…if the right tests and treatments are available and affordable to everyone.
More about hepatitis C
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted through blood and causes liver infections that range from short, mild illnesses to serious, lifelong disease leading to premature death.
Approximately 75-85% of HCV cases are chronic cases. Symptoms can take decades to appear – and by then, liver disease is often already at an advanced stage.
Treatment for HCV has improved enormously in recent years. Older treatments were intensive, involved injections and took about a year to complete…and they were not always effective. New drugs can cure HCV in as little as 12 weeks with pills only.
The obstacle now is the lack of simplified, affordable tests. Most people living with HCV in developing countries remain undiagnosed.
Need more information on the hepatitis C virus? The World Health Organization has an excellent fact sheet, here.
FIND’s strategic approach
The availability of new, highly effective HCV medicines gives the world a unique opportunity to eliminate hepatitis C as a global health problem — if we have the right tests to quickly and easily diagnose those infected.
FIND’s strategic approach supports the WHO Global Hepatitis Programme goals of reducing HCV transmission, decreasing morbidity and mortality by improving patient care, and reducing the socio-economic impact of HCV at individual, community and population levels.
FIND has analysed diagnostic needs for HCV and worked with partners globally to develop and finalize target product profiles (TPPs) for priority HCV tests to meet the needs of people in developing countries.
FIND’s activities to support the development and validation of new tests are guided by these consensus-based priorities. This work is complemented by:
- Establishment of an HCV specimen bank to support R&D
- Conducting demonstration trials to determine optimal diagnostic algorithms and use of tests
- Support for implementation of new diagnostic tools for HCV in the public and private sectors
- Advocating for increased prioritization of HCV diagnosis based on data and modelling around impact and cost-effectiveness.