International Day for the fight against Hepatitis in Georgia – “This is Hepatitis”

24 May, 2010

May 19 is the International Hepatitis Day and 64 countries and 280 organizations worldwide are participating in the campaign “This is Hepatitis”. The “UK-Georgia Professional Network” (UGPN) and the “Open Society Georgia Foundation” joined this international campaign and held the press-conference dedicated to the International Hepatitis Day in the OSGF office.

The main message of the campaign is intended for the society to think about the question: “Am I the 12th?” and this question represents the terrible statistics according to which each 12th human in the world is suffering from chronic Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C.
According to the data provided by the World Health Organization, 180 million people around the world are infected with the Hepatitis C virus and this amount equals to 3 percents of the world’s population.

  •         Every year about 1.5 million people die from Hepatitis B or C.
  •         The amount of people infected with Hepatitis is ten times higher than the amount of those infected with AIDS and the majority is not aware about their disease.
  •         Among the Easter Europe and Central Asia countries Georgia has the highest indicator of Hepatitis C prevalence. Currently about 200 000 people, 6.7 percents of Gneorgia’s population is infected with Hepatitis C.

Most of the patients in Georgia cannot afford the treatment due to the high cost of medications and expenses related to diagnostics. The cost of choosing the methods for Hepatitis treatment and conducting the necessary tests is about GEL 1200, as for the 48-week treatment course with the combination of PEG-Interferon and Ribavirin – Euro 900. The high price of treatment is caused by the fact that only two pharmaceutical companies produce the necessary medicaments and these medicaments are patented. Besides, due to the high cost of Hepatitis treatment, the state and insurance companies do not cover the expenses related to Hepatitis C diagnostic tests and treatment. Though this disease is the serious problem that the public health is facing, there is no public program for Hepatitis C or official statistical data; the civil society is rather passively involved in the process of raising the accessibility of the treatment and the patients are not adequately informed about their infection.

The working group has been established in 2010 to promote the growth in access to Hepatitis C treatment in order to provide more people with the opportunity to use the modern treatment relevant to world standards. This working group consists of 9 non-governmental organizations and any individual or organization interested is eligible to join it.

“The statistics on the patients with Hepatitis C in Georgia is thrilling, almost 6.7 percents of the adult population is infected. If the government covers at least some part of the expenses related to the treatment by means of pilot program, the precedent will be established and will be the precondition for covering more expenses in the following years. As a result we will have a chance to save thousands and ten thousands of young lives. Georgia has all the resources essential for the Hepatitis treatment: professional staff and technical equipment. The only problem for the patients is the inaccessibility. We hope that in several years we will manage to adopt the policy that will be as effective for Hepatitis C as it was for HIV-AIDS: Georgia is now among those 9 countries of the world having the most successful results in AIDS treatment” – states Tengiz Tsertsvadze, General Director, “Infectious Diseases, AIDS and Clinical Immunology Research Center”.

The meeting was attended by Marine Buissonniere, Deputy Director of the Open Society Institute Public Health Network Program, who clearly stressed the urgency for creating the public program for Hepatitis C treatment in Georgia and the importance of civil society engagement.

“Though political will and government’s understanding of public health problem is very important, the participation of the civil society in the advocacy process related to this issue is also crucial. The constant mobilization of the civil sector must be in place. I am excited with the results you have reached for the moment and ready to support you in any introductory activity. As for the funders, Georgia will be a good example of what can be reached as a result of civil society initiative” – noted Marine Buissonniere.