Sat, Dec 01, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Project aims to eliminate hepatitis C in select areas

ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES:About 2,000 people have so far received screenings in four regions chosen in August, while about 70 people are receiving treatment

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Four Aboriginal areas with higher hepatitis C prevalence rates have been chosen to receive full screening and treatment services, with the goal of eliminating the disease in the selected areas, the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s National Hepatitis C Flagship Project Office said yesterday.

Chronic liver disease is the third leading cause of death in Aborigines, while liver and bile duct cancers are the second leading cause, the office said, citing Council of Indigenous Peoples data.

Hepatitis B and C infection and excessive drinking are major risk factors for chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer, it said.

Luckily, hepatitis C can be cured with medication and the National Health Insurance program last year began covering treatments for stage 3 liver fibrosis, and trials have shown that the cure rate for people who complete the treatment regimens is as high as 97 percent, it said.

However, the percentage of people who receive treatment for hepatitis C in Aboriginal areas is relatively low, likely because of insufficient medical resources and inconvenient transportation from remote areas, as well as potentially lower health awareness, it added.

The ministry collaborated with local health bureaus, healthcare facilities, academics, civil groups and the private sector to launch the Aboriginal Regions Hepatitis C Complete Cure Project to improve hepatitis C prevention and treatment in selected regions.

The four regions chosen in August for the first phase of the project are Chiayi County’s Alishan Township (阿里山), Kaohsiung’s Taoyuan District (桃源) and Hualien County’s Hsiulin Village (秀林) and Jhuosi Township (卓溪), it said.

An integrated service model that includes prevention, screening and treatment has been implemented, the office added.

Local health bureaus have made an inventory of people who have been screened or diagnosed with hepatitis C to avoid repeated screenings, to help refer people who have been diagnosed, but have not received treatment, and to arrange screenings for those who have not yet had a checkup, it said.

So far, medical teams have visited nearly 1,000 people who have received screenings, conducted checkups on more than 1,000 people who had never been screened before and are administering medication to about 70 people with hepatitis C, it said.

The hepatitis C virus is transmitted through exposure to infected blood, including bodily fluids that contain blood, the office said, adding that as there is no vaccination for the virus, people should practice safe sex, sterilize equipment used for tattooing and piercing, and avoid sharing needles, razors and toothbrushes.

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