Imphal: A total of 223 people who were from drug injecting community were tested for Hepatitis-C during the weeklong observation of International Testing Week which commenced from November 23, among which 80 of them were found to be HCV antibody reactive, a high positivity rate of 36 percent among injecting drug users.
In a press release, CoNE Nalinikanta Rajkumar stated that these people have been linked to the National Viral Hepatitis Control Program (NVHC) for further diagnosis and treatment at free of cost.
The International Testing Week was observed by Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE) in collaboration with Directorate of Health Services and BABINA diagnostics under the aegis of coalition PLUS from November 23 to 29, 2020. The observation was part of the event carried out in 50 countries by over 100 partners of coalition PLUS.
During the entire process of conducting the screening camp in 5 different sites across Imphal, Thoubal and Bishnupur district, BABINA Diagnostics provided all the technical support including dissemination of authenticated test reports for every participant and providing priority to the clients of the camps in conducting HCV RNA confirmatory test while the state health department provide necessary support in terms of linking the positive patients to the national program without any hassle, said the release.
As part of the International Testing Week, CoNE also carried out poster campaigns at service centres including model treatment centres located at both RIMS and JNIMS and ART Centres in addition to the screening sites, Nalinikanta said. Treatment literacy campaign was also conducted where the clients were provided awareness on the benefits of early diagnosis and treatment.
“With such a high positivity rate recorded among the drug users’ community, it is high time the government create more awareness so that more people could come out for HCV testing. We believe that knowing one’s status is the first step in taking control of one’s health and protecting others. Testing isn’t something we do for ourselves but for others too,” CoNE president stated.
Taking this into consideration, CoNE will be submitting a memorandum to the authority concerned demanding for the recognition and integration of community-based screening in public health policies and the implementation of Hepatitis-C self-testing as recommended by WHO, Nalinikanta said.