India launches National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, in collaboration with WHO Country Office for India organised a consultation to commemorate the World Hepatitis Day at New Delhi on 28 July 2018. Mr J. P. Nadda, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare launched the National Viral Hepatitis Control Program on the occasion.

The World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity to step up national and international efforts for raising awareness as well as encouraging prevention, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis to achieve the global elimination goals by 2030. The global theme this year is ‘Test. Treat. Hepatitis’.

In his inaugural address, Mr Nadda said, “With this initiative, the government is strongly committed to work towards elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030.”

Underscoring that there has been a paradigm shift in designing the programme, he added, “Programmes are now designed at the ground level and all stakeholders are taken into the consideration. We are now making sure that the last person gets the benefit out of it.”

To mark the day, a commemorative stamp was released by Mr Manoj Sinha, Minister of State (Independent Charge) – Ministry of Communications and Minister of State, Ministry of Railways.

The event also saw the release of the Operational Guidelines for National Viral Hepatitis Control Program, National Laboratory Guidelines for Viral Hepatitis Testing and National Guidelines for Diagnosis and Management of Viral Hepatitis. Combining it with the existing preventive efforts, India is also embarking on the treatment of Hepatitis B and C. This is a leap forward in the public health response to viral hepatitis; it makes India a frontrunner in developing a response that reiterates the country’s commitment towards the SDG 3.3.

Congratulating the government for the launch of the National Viral Hepatitis Control Program, Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India said, “This is indeed a very comprehensive plan — covering the entire gamut from Hepatitis A, B, C, D & E, and the whole range from prevention, detection and treatment to mapping treatment outcomes.”

The consultation was also graced by Mr Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State, MoHFW; Ms Anupriya Patel, Minister of State, MoHFW; Ms Preeti Sudan, Secretary, MoHFW; Mr Ananta Narayan Nanda, Secretary, Department of Posts; Dr S. Venkatesh, Director General of Health Services; Mr Manoj Jhalani, Additional Secretary & Mission Director – National Health Mission, MoHFW; Mr Vikas Sheel, Joint Secretary, MoHFW.

In addition, about 200 guests, including senior government officials, development partners, UN agencies, civil society, community representatives, state government officials, private sector, research institutes and members of the press were present on the occasion.

Viral hepatitis B and C are major health challenges, affecting 325 million people globally. Hepatitis B and C are chronic infections that may not show symptoms for a long period, sometimes years or decades. Timely testing and treatment can save lives.