Hepatology, Medicine and Policy
Hepatitis C in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: a survey of epidemiology, treatment access and civil society activity in eleven countries
Hepatology, Medicine and Policy20172:9
© The Author(s) 2017
Received: 6 March 2017
Accepted: 13 April 2017
Published: 13 June 2017
The 16 countries of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region are home to 6.6 million people in need of treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Because of transformational change in HCV treatment, global efforts to address HCV are accelerating. Given its large regional burden, the EECA needs to ensure its inclusion in and benefit from any new developments.
Our 2015–16 survey aimed to collect and report on epidemiology, treatment access (including drug registration and prices, national HCV guidelines and treatment program coverage) and pertinent civil society organization (CSO) activities in 11 countries in the EECA.
Major gaps in epidemiological data exist; reported anti-HCV prevalence ranged from 1.5 to 7.5% for the general population, 22.7 to 70–95% for people who inject drugs (PWID) and 18 to 80% for people living with HIV (PLHIV). Ten countries (91% of the sample) have registered one or more of the second-generation, direct-acting antiviral medications (DAA) for potential interferon-free treatment. However, intellectual property issues and prices limit access to these drugs. In 2014, HCV programs in the surveyed countries covered only 0.15% of the total number of people in need of treatment. CSO-driven, international donor-funded programs are starting to fulfill needs of PWID and PLHIV.
As feasible curative HCV treatment is now available, and given the significant regional disease burden, EECA countries need to ensure HCV surveillance and DAA availability at affordable prices in order to expand treatment and prevent the onward transmission of the infection. EECA CSOs have demonstrated their capacity to play a crucial role in advancing HCV issues, and they should continue leveraging these issues for the benefit of individual patients and public health in general.
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