The Asian Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver (APASL) hosted their 26th annual meeting in Shanghai, China from 15-19 February 2017.
During an APASL-WHO joint symposium – Hepatitis testing and testing innovations from the region – the Head of FIND India, Dr Sanjay Sarin, presented on FIND’s first-ever project on hepatitis C. The presentation – Promoting Implementation: A new Unitaid demonstration project on diagnostic innovation – highlighted a UNITAID-funded, FIND-led project to drive policy change and accelerate access to HCV diagnostics in six target countries – Cameroon, Georgia, India, Malaysia, Viet Nam and Myanmar.
FIND and collaborating partners both outside and in the project countries will gather evidence on the most efficient service delivery models for HCV care and treatment scale-up. The evidence-gathering will support regulatory approval of new, simplified and high-quality HCV diagnostic tests, secure preferential pricing agreements with test suppliers, and incorporate new HCV tests in existing HIV and public health programmes. This is expected to increase access to HCV diagnosis and treatment for some of the most vulnerable populations.
It is estimated that in lower- and middle-income countries fewer than 5 percent of HCV-infected people are diagnosed and less than 1% are in treatment. Existing HCV screening and diagnostic tools are relatively expensive and not suited for the clinical contexts of low- and middle-income countries or for all infections, particularly where HCV patients are co-infected with HIV. A lack of appropriate diagnostic tools for HCV infection remains a challenge.
“Validating and introducing simple, low-cost, rapid tests for hepatitis C will break the barriers to treatment–and make the possibility of HCV elimination a reality,” says Dr Francesco Marinucci, Head of FIND’s HCV and HIV programme.
Testing and treatment must go hand in hand, and currently the main obstacle is a lack of appropriate diagnostic tests and simplified and cost effective diagnostic algorithms. This makes those co-infected with HIV/HCV a priority group for diagnosis and treatment.
UNITAID and FIND launch initiative to improve diagnostics and treatment for hepatitis C – press release