AzerNews (07.24.2013): By Sabina Idayatova
Aids Weekly Plus
The Georgian Public Broadcaster reported that the Republic of Georgia had the highest hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence (200,000 cases) of all countries in the South Caucasus region, with an annual incidence of 2,000 new infections. Mortality rates also were high, as Georgia had no state program for HCV prevention, detection, and treatment, and only 10 percent of Georgia’s population could afford treatment costs. Georgian physicians asserted that these estimates—based on 2004 data—could underestimate actual HCV prevalence and incidence.
A report by Azadeh Momenghalibaf, joint program officer for the International Harm Reduction Development and Access to Essential Medicines Initiative, stated that most of the estimated 185 million HCV-infected people in the world lived in low- or middle-income countries with little access to treatment or government response. Momenghalibaf attributed the lack of access and government response to the nature of HCV infections, which could have no symptoms for many years, creating a “hidden epidemic.”
According to Momenghalibaf, a 48-week course of HCV treatment with Pegylated-Interferon cost approximately $18,000. Georgian Health Minister David Sergeenko asserted that the country’s entire health budget would not be sufficient to treat all Georgians infected with HCV. Sergeenko estimated that 1,000 HCV-infected Georgians also needed liver transplants, which would have to be carried out abroad.
Georgian civil society and patient groups were pressuring Pegylated-Interferon manufacturers Roche and Merck to cut prices; the Georgia government was negotiating for a price that would allow for universal coverage. Georgia has received some international support for HCV healthcare, but this assistance usually applied to patients coinfected with HIV.