Involving civil society must be a key strategy in working towards the elimination of viral hepatitis, Cary James, chief executive officer, World Hepatitis Alliance, has said.
He said civil society, particularly those living with viral hepatitis, must be equitable partners in the planning, implementation, monitoring, and governance of hepatitis programmes, speaking at a virtual conference organised by Chennai Liver Foundation (CLF) on Saturday ahead of World Hepatitis Day on July 28. He believes that by involving civic society and working directly with communities, hepatitis programmes will become more effective. He emphasised the importance of combating misconceptions and stigma surrounding viral hepatitis, especially Hepatitis B and C.
B.B. Rewari from the South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) of World Health Organisation, stressed on the need for decentralising testing and treatment coverage in India in tackling Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. He said that although vaccination, testing and treatment were available in the country through a structured programme, they were largely centralised in tertiary care centres. Highlighting the inadequacy in testing and treatment coverage in rural districts and tier-2 and tier-3 cities, he stressed on the need for training more healthcare professionals from these areas.
J.A. Jayalal, national president of Indian Medical Association, said that Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C did not receive the advocacy available for other diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis. He said that IMA would work towards creating a programme to strengthen the understanding of viral hepatitis among physicians.
R.P. Shanmugam, founder of CLF, stressed on the need for increased awareness about Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, particularly in proactive screening of vulnerable populations.
Vivekanandan, liver transplant surgeon and managing trustee at CLF, highlighted the need for policy level changes to enable screening and vaccination of more people.