Approximately 140,000 of the 430,000 people in Taiwan infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) who have never received treatment refuse to get treated despite knowing that they are infected. The majority of them do not seek treatment because they are misguided in their views about the virus, the national health insurance program as well as the drugs that are used for treatment, effectively forfeiting a second chance on life.
According to a survey conducted by a polling company hired by a pharmaceutical company that polled 180 residents with HCV from northern, central and southern cities and villages in Taiwan, more than 70 percent of them choose not to go to the doctor because they believe that treatment is unnecessary because no symptoms have appeared, while 60 percent say it is because they think they could not afford medical costs, and 55 percent assume that the treatment would not be covered by the national health insurance program. Around 50 percent of the respondents also said that they have not sought treatment because they were worried about the side effects of medication, did not want to spend several years going through treatment or thought that treatment was unlikely to work.
Dai Chia-yen, an attending physician in the Department of Hepatobiliary Medicine at Kaohsiung Medical University’s Chung-Ho Memorial Hospital, says that the treatment for HCV typically only takes between 24 and 48 weeks and that the recovery rate is between 77 and 95 percent. The average medical costs for a year of HCV treatment is approximately NT$400,000, he says, adding that the national health insurance program covers the expense, so there is no need to worry about not being able to afford treatment.
Respondents in the survey were 55 years old on average, but 20 percent of them said that they were already too old to receive treatment. National Taiwan University medical professor Chen Pei-jer says that the body’s reaction to treatment is sufficient regardless of age, but says that older people have a lower level of tolerance, which decreases their chances of completing treatment.
HCV was discovered sometime around 1989, Dai says, adding that people who underwent invasive procedures such as surgery, blood transfusions or injections before that time are at the highest risk of having contracted HCV and should get tested as soon as possible instead of waiting for symptoms to appear.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)