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Ukraine: Tackling the Issue of Hepatitis C

Igor Kuzmenko, an activist of the Association of the Substitution Therapy Advocates in Ukraine [ru]from Simferopol, Crimea attended a workshop held in Tallinn, Estonia about organizing advocacy campaigns that aim to increase access to Hepatitis C treatment. Igor became more interested about the Hepatitis C epidemic through the presentations by the workshop instructors Konstantin from Eurasian Harm Reduction Network and Raminta Stuikyte from European AIDS Treatment Group. He blogged about the situation with Hepatitis C in Ukraine and suggests the steps the people living with drug addiction could undertake to fight the virus.

The workshop instructor Raminta Stujkite, photo taken from ASTU web-site The workshop instructor Konstantin Lezhentsev, photo taken from ASTU web-site

Hepatitis C is one of the major problems for substitution therapy patients. According to media reports about 77 % of injection drug users in Ukraine are infected with Hepatitis C. Most of the time the virus is transferred through unsterile syringes, but sometime the drug itself can be infected. This is how the Hepatitis C epidemic was described in the blog post:

Процент забракованной по тем или иным причинам донорской крови в Украине составляет примерно 10 процентов. По данным на 2007 года, 21,2% из этих 10 приходилось на него – гепатит С. Мало это? Нет, конечно, это очень много. Учтите, что речь идёт о донорах, людях, которые заботятся о своём здоровье и постоянно обследуются. И среди этой вот, отнюдь не маргинальной группы, в 2007 году, целых 2% узнали вдруг, что у них гепатит С! Что же говорить о простых смертных, тем паче о нашем брате – ПИНе, ….

The percentage of donor blood that is rejected because of various infections in Ukraine is about 10%. In 2007, 21.2% out of this 10% rejected blood was because of Hepatitis C. Is it a lot? Yes, these numbers are huge! Take into consideration that we are talking about blood donors, about people who care about their health and go through medical examinations. And just imagine, in 2007 only 2% of the people out of this non-marginal group learned that they are infected with Hepatitis C! And just imagine how this situation would look like among us, injection drug users…

Hepatitis C is not a solely a Ukrainian problem. The epidemic affects developed countries as well. Currently. the death statistics from Hepatitis looks much worse than from other infective diseases such as HIV and TB. Igor wrote:

В сытой Европе тоже не всё слава Богу. Страшная триада «ВИЧ, ТБ, Гепатит С» немного видоизменилась там за последнее время. Причина в том, что смертности от ВИЧ, как таковой нет. Надёжно работают схемы антиретровирусной терапии. И с туберкулёзом вопрос стоит там не столь остро, как у нас. Смертность же от гепатита С высока и в ЕС. В сверхблагополучных Соединённых Штатах, от «нежного убийцы» ежегодно умирает 12 000 человек. Точнее, умирают, как правило, от цирроза печени, который развивается вследствие инфицированности гепатитом С. По оценкам, во всём мире, этим вирусом поражены 170 млн. человек.

In more wealthy Europe, the situation is not good as well. The scary triangle ‘HIV, TB, Hepatitis C’ has slightly changed recently.  The main reason is that HIV causes almost no deaths. The schemes of antiretroviral therapy works really well.  The situation with TB over there is also much better than in our country. But number of cases of death caused by Hepatitis C is high even there. Even in a very wealthy USA, more than 12,000 people die each year because of the ‘gentle killer’. Namely they die because of liver cirrhosis caused by the Hepatitis C virus. According to estimations, more than 170 million people all over the world are affected by the virus.

The workshop instructor Konstantin Lezhentsev, photo taken from ASTU web-site

According to media reports in Ukraine Hepatitis C treatment is very expensive for most of the people (about $20,000 per year) and is not funded by Ukrainian government.  Although the blogger suggests that there are certain steps which would make the treatment more accessible. He posted:  

Что до лечения, то уже достаточно давно, оно возможно. Правда, это не просто, мягко говоря. Москвич Арсений Павловский, написал даже некий «мануал» – пособие в помощь тем, кто нашёл средства и силы начать лечиться от гепатита. Я рекомендую всем этот, не побоюсь сказать, труд – выстраданный, точный, помогающий.

Брэндовые препараты пока ещё далеко не всем по карману, вряд ли они когда-нибудь станут доступней. Но есть генерики. Не стоит бояться этого слова, … Это просто воспроизведение брэндовых, патентованных препаратов. Как правило, производством генериков занимаются «третьи страны». Безусловно, ведущая роль в этом принадлежит Индии. Иные генерики ничем не хуже оригиналов.

Talking about the treatment I need to say that it has existed for fairly long time. But to say that it is not so easy to access is an understatement. A Moscow author Arseniy Pavlovskiy even wrote a manual for those to find funds for Hepatitis C treatment. I would recommend to everybody this precise and helpful manual.

Most of us cannot afford brand name drugs. But there are generic drugs. We should not be afraid of these words… This just means that this is a replication of brand name patented medications. As a rule, the generic drugs are produced in ‘third-world countries’. The leading country, of course, is India. Many generic medications are no worse than originals.  

Igor is optimistic about the future and encourages his counterparts to take care of their health. He wrote:

Фармакология не стоит на месте. Самое главное, что новые препараты значительно сокращают время лечения, что очень важно, учитывая тяжёлое состояние в момент приёма терапии. […]

Нам нужно лишь бережнее относиться к самому ценному, что есть на свете – к самим себе, к здоровью и жизни. Будем здоровы!

The pharmaceutical industry develops very fast. What is most important is that the new medications significantly reduce treatment time because one must take into account how hard the therapy is to go through. […]

We need to care about the most valuable things we have – ourselves, our health, and our life. Let's be healthy!

1 comment

  • Muriel Nilaweera

    This is perfectly a true statement . Then only you will too receive the due respect . The family will be a happy one . The society you live will be a happy one and the world will be a happy place for everyone to live .

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