Should The US Provide Universal Screening and Treatment for Hep C? Learning From Egypt's Response
Hepatitis C (Hep C) is highly curable disease, but delayed diagnosis can lead to long-term health consequences and spread of the disease to others. While original screening recommendations called for testing adults born between 1945 and 1965 ("Baby Boomers") or for people with certain, high risk factors, new data suggests that expanding hep C testing could lead to better outcomes for patients. According to the CDC, all adults 18 and over and all pregnant women be tested for hep C infection.1 The US Preventive Services Task Force expands that recommendation further, suggesting that all adults aged 18 to 79 should be tested.2,3
The benefits of expanded screening in Egypt
One country is putting this recommendation to the test. The Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population aims to roll out a mass screening program, with the goal of screening 45-52 million Egyptians in 3 phases. Patients who tested positive were provided with free treatment and healthcare for the virus. Over 90% of patients who tested positive received treatment. In order to encourage participation, Egyptian officials created a national marketing campaign, utilizing television, radio, text messaging, and other media.4,5
More than just testing
The screening program was just one aspect of Egypt’s public health campaign on hep C. The government has been fighting the disease on multiple fronts— negotiating prices, streamlining processes, leading community education programs, and increasing infection control, blood safety, and vaccination access.4
Egypt’s hep C screening effort is one of the largest programs in history. And the country has successfully shown accessible public health gains through the use of strong government involvement, commitment to financial support, and providing access to lifesaving treatments.4
Egypt has one of the world’s largest hep C patient populations, with 6.3% of Egyptians living with the disease. Since untreated hep C can lead to liver failure and even death, the country aims to eliminate hep C as a public health threat, identifying and treating a greater number of cases through increased screening.3
If you have questions about getting tested or treated for hepatitis C, call your healthcare provider.
Have you been diagnosed with cirrhosis?