Kuala Lumpur, 24 July 2018 – Yesterday’s announcement by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) partnering to support the Malaysian Ministry of Health in dealing with the country’s Hepatitis C (HCV) epidemic is a major step towards effectively dealing with the disease.
Announced on the sidelines of the AIDS 2018 conference in Amsterdam, this initiative to support the Ministry of Health in screening for the virus using pre-qualified rapid diagnostic tests has the potential to address a major challenge: the treatment gap, namely identifying those with the disease, and getting them treated and cured.
Commenting on the announcement, Azrul Mohd Khalib, Chief Executive of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, said “This crucial development will see the use of rapid diagnostic tests in decentralized primary healthcare facilities in Malaysia. Rather than depend on people going to major healthcare facilities such as hospitals, it will instead bring HCV screening services closer to the communities which will benefit the most from early detection and treatment of the disease.”
“This initiative increases the likelihood for people to be screened for HCV, to know their status and be treated through the government’s subsidised national Hepatitis C programme. Combined with the latter, the decentralisation and use of RDTs have the potential of reducing missed opportunities for early diagnosis, making the case for scaling up existing coverage and achieving success in treating the disease. It will boost existing efforts in improving the quality of life for thousands of patients and save lives.”
Only one in 10 Malaysians who carry the Hepatitis C virus has been diagnosed and know their status. It has been estimated that more than 450,000 people in the population are currently living with the disease. Of particular concern are the incidences of HIV-HCV co-infection among most-at-risk populations such as people who inject drugs, which is a significant public health issue in Malaysia.
The majority of cases go undiagnosed as symptoms do not necessarily show themselves and the disease may take up to 20 years to progress. It can also be due to the lack of knowledge, limited access to diagnostic facilities and high treatment costs.
— END —