Presentation of a program on the diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C in correctional facilities

21 Jun, 2013

On June 20 Courtyard Marriott Hotel hosted the round table on program document on hepatitis C prevention, diagnosis and treatment in correctional facilities. The program has been developed for correctional facilities by Georgian and foreign experts with the support from the Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF).
“Making Hepatitis C treatment and diagnosis accessible in the country is one of the issues we have been focused on over recent years. This is one of the acute problems faced by our population. The prevalence of the infection is rather high. On the other hand, because of the high cost of treatment the level of access is rather low. Drug prices present a big obstacle. At the stage, the Ministry is involved in negotiations in an effort to cut drug prices not only for prisoners but also for the whole population”, Irma Khabazi, head of the Public Health Program of the Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), says.

At the meeting the document was discussed by health experts, representatives of the field of medicine, NGOs and pharmaceutical companies. The final version of the program document, which will be created based on the comments provided during the discussion, will be submitted to donors for funding.

The document defines the number of prisoners to be treated during the year, the criteria for the selection of patients and the financial resources required for the implementation of the program. Experts think that the launch of the program in the correctional system will lead to the reduction of prices of hepatitis C medications for the population.

Archil Talakvadze, the Deputy Minister of Corrections, Probation and Legal Assistance: “This is not a declarative document. Rather it is a concrete program developed by leading experts. It will protect from infection thousands of prisoners while making treatment accessible to hundreds of them. The presented document specifies in detail treatment schemes, types of preventive measures, criteria for involving patients in treatment… This is why we have dared present this program today. As a result of considering the document we would like to reach a consensus on a wider scale than we have today. The government will exert every effort to make sure that the launch of the program in the correctional system will be followed by reduction of treatment costs not only within the correctional facilities but generally in the country“.

The problem of hepatitis C prevention and treatment in Georgia’s prisons has persisted for years, for which, the incidence of the infection among prisoners, according to

 some studies, exceeds the same indicator among the general population three and more times. The European Court of Human Rights has made four rulings against Georgia on hepatitis C-related cases.

Mariam (Maka) Jashi, the Deputy Minister of Labor, Health
and Social Affairs, who was one of the speakers at the meeting, said the Ministry was working for providing universal access to hepatitis C treatment.