DUBAI- To control the spread of Hepatitis C in the UAE, experts call for mass awareness by advising people to identify common symptoms like fever,fatigue, nausea, muscle and joint pain, jaundice to undertake screening tests. It has been noticed that most people live symptom free for years without realizing they have been infected by the virus. To address the issue and improve patient access to treatment, Roche in partnership with Emirates Gastroenterology Society and Charities in UAE are implementing the Hepatitis C Patients Accelerate program. Under this, a toll free-number 800HEPC was established for people seeking information. The program guides an individual to free tests centers, diagnosis centers and advises on how to seek help if a patient is financially challenged. Till now, 1970 people have been enrolled in the program, with 322 patients receiving treatments through charities and NGOs.
“Hepatitis C is a silent disease which often goes unnoticed and misdiagnosed as the symptoms do not develop for years, and when they do they can be similar to symptoms of other diseases. The disease is curable and people can go back to their normal lives if detected early and treated accurately. Hence, we urge people to identify symptoms and undertake screening tests without delay. Through our HCV Patient (Hepatitis C Virus) Accelerate program run in association with charities in the UAE, we are not only educating people on HCV but also helping patients in need to get the best treatment,” says Dr. Mariam Al Khatery, President of Emirates Gastroenterology Society.
HCV Patient Accelerate Program run in association with leading charities in UAE like Red Crescent, Zakat Fund, Dar Al Ber Society and many others, has been providing information to patients or public on the disease, prevention, diagnosis, treatments and methods of dealing with adverse events. The program offers free screening, diagnosis and follow-up tests for patients according to physician advice. If the patient is financially disadvantaged, the program guides them on how to reach the appropriate charity, seek help and get treated with help of doctors. It also maintains regular checks and post treatment follow-ups to maintain post treatment adherence to medication by patients.
“Our partnership to develop the HCV Patient Accelerate Program has been a part of our continuous efforts to control the spread of Hepatitis C in UAE, by increasing patient access to best quality treatment and fulfilling our commitment to society. We support the extensive work being done by charities, NGOs and medical community in increasing disease awareness, education of social workers and helping patients in need,” says Slobodan Nedeljkovic MD, Head of Medical Roche Middle East.
Charities in UAE play a critical role in facilitating accurate treatment for Hepatitis C patients in need. In Ramadan, Dar Al Ber Society has launched a special program to collect funds which can help Hepatitis C patient. Red Crescent has a medical center in Sharjah dedicated to help Hepatitis C patients. The charities regularly undertake measures to educate people on the preventive measures to avoid getting infected with the disease.
Dr. Maryam urges people to ask themselves the following questions:
- Did you receive a blood or blood component transfusion or an organ transplant before 1992?
- Have you ever received hemodialysis?
- Do you have any tattoos or body piercing?
- Have you shared items that might have had blood on them, such as razors, nail clippers, scissors, and toothbrush etc?
- Is your partner or any of your household members’ hepatitis C positive?
- Have you had any contact with blood at your workplace, especially if you are (or were) a healthcare worker, police officer, firefighter, etc.?
- Did your mother have hepatitis C when you were born?
If you answer with a “Yes” to any of the above questions, a blood test is recommended to determine the presence of Hepatitis C and seek accurate treatment at an early stage.