FIND India joins hands with the Government of Punjab to screen for hepatitis C virus among prison inmates
- Memorandum of understanding signed to address critical HCV diagnostic gaps by establishing decentralized diagnostic and treatment services towards micro elimination of HCV among prison inmates in Punjab
- Announcement made at high-level event ahead of World Hepatitis Day 2019
New Delhi, India – 26 July 2019 – The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Department of Health, Government of Punjab, India to roll out a unique initiative to screen for hepatitis C virus (HCV) among prison inmates in the state. The announced was made at a pre-conference organized in Chandigarh, ahead of World Hepatitis Day 2019.
The event witnessed the presence of S. Balbir Singh Sidhu, Hon’ble Health Minister Punjab; Mr Anurag Agarwal, IAS, Principal Secretary Health and Family Welfare, Punjab; Dr. Jaspal Kaur, Director Health Services, Punjab; Dr R K Dhiman, Professor and Head, Hepatology, PGIMER; Dr Gagandeep Singh Grover, State Programme Officer, National Viral Hepatitis Control Program, NVHCP/IDSP; Dr. Sunil Anand, Executive Director, ECHO India (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes); Sh. P K Sinha, ADGP, Deptt. of Prisons; Dr. Sanjay Sarin, Head of FIND India; Ms. Oriel Fernandes, Associate Director, Strategic Planning and Operations, Clinton Health Access Initiative and Ms. Lisa Nova Jena, Community Representative.
The HCV situation globally as well as in India was presented along with an update and analysis of the current situation in Punjab. The participants were briefed on the management of HCV under NVHCP and contribution of the ECHO project to the successful management of hepatitis C in Punjab.
“Journey of Punjab against HCV”, a progress report along with a flipbook for counsellors on hepatitis C and HIV co-infection were also released at the event. The report findings are based on the programme ─ Mukh Mantri Punjab Hepatitis C Relief Fund (MMPHCRF), established in 2016 to provide HCV care to the general population in Punjab. To date, MMPHCRF has linked over 67,000 people infected with HCV to treatment, with a 92.3% cure rate achieved. Since September 2018, MMPHCRF has been funded under the NVHCP, Punjab. The Health Ministry of Punjab is partnering with FIND to expand HCV care to people living with HIV (PLHIV), funded Unitaid as part of the FIND HEAD-Start* programme in collaboration with the Punjab State AIDS Control Society (PSACS). In Punjab, HEAD-Start has integrated HCV services into all existing antiretroviral therapy (ART) centers across the state to increase NVHCP Punjab’s reach to PLWHAs. The aim of this project is to provide HCV screening to all PLHIV visiting the 13 ART centers in Punjab using decentralized HCV testing as part of a micro elimination approach. This approach entails pursuing elimination goals in discrete populations through multi-stakeholder initiatives that tailor interventions to the needs of specific populations.
Speaking at the launch, Shri. Balbir Singh Sidhu, Hon’ble Health Minister of Punjab said, “The Health and Family Welfare Department is committed to provide preventive, promotive and curative health services to the people of the state through a network of medical institutions such as sub-centers, subsidiary health centers (dispensaries/clinics etc.), primary health centers, community health centers, sub-divisional and district hospitals, and government medical & dental colleges.”
Mr. Anurag Agarwal, IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare of Punjab talking about the way forward in management of hepatitis C in Punjab said, “Treatment of hepatitis C is going to be initiated soon for prison inmates in 9 out of 24 jails of the State. Patients at de-addiction centres will also be targeted for which psychiatrists of 23 centres have been sensitized. Screening of HRG group patients at opioid substitution therapy (OST) under FIND’s HEAD-start programme will be initiated after completion of screening of HIV cases. The non-cirrhotic patients will be initiated, and cirrhotic patients will be referred to a medical specialist at district hospitals or government medical colleges.”
Dr. Sanjay Sarin, Head of FIND India said, “We are pleased to partner with the Directorate of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Punjab to target microelimination of HCV among the prison inmates in Punjab. Prison inmates are classified as a high risk for HCV infection and there is an urgent need to develop innovative service delivery models and targeted interventions aimed at early diagnosis and linkage to treatment in this key population.”
Ms. Lisa Nova Jena, community representative congratulated the government of Punjab for its exemplary leadership in providing HCV services to thousands of people and setting a model for other states and NVHCP. Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material on HCV was made available to the participants and the state government is planning to strengthen the IEC activities to reach the unreached.
This initiative forms part of a larger FIND programme known as Hepatitis C Elimination through Access to Diagnostics (HEAD-Start), funded by Unitaid. HEAD-Start builds on earlier work supported by the government of the Netherlands, and UK aid from the British people.
*Hepatitis C Elimination through Access to Diagnostics
FIND is a global non-profit organization that drives innovation in the development and delivery of diagnostics to combat major diseases affecting the world’s poorest populations. Our work bridges R&D to access, overcoming scientific barriers to technology development; generating evidence for regulators and policy-makers; addressing market failures; and enabling accelerated uptake and access to diagnostics in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Since 2003, we have been instrumental in the development of 24 new diagnostic tools. Over 50 million FIND-supported products have been provided to 150 LMICs since the start of 2015. A WHO Collaborating Centre, we work with more than 200 academic, industry, governmental, and civil society partners worldwide, on over 70 active projects that cross six priority disease areas. FIND is committed to a future in which diagnostics underpin treatment decisions and provide the foundation for disease surveillance, control, and prevention.
Navneet Tewatia, Advocacy Officer, FIND India
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