First Lady rallies Rwandans to contribute to fight against Hepatitis C

The First Lady of Rwanda Mrs. Jeanette Kagame has called for concerted efforts by all Rwandans, towards the country’s target of eliminating Hepatitis C in five years’ time.

Mrs Kagame delivered her remarks as the Guest of Honour, at an event supporting the elimination of Hepatitis C, organised by the Ministry of Health, Private Sector Federation and the Rwanda Interfaith Council.  Rwanda’s 5-year control and elimination plan, costing at about 44 million dollars, aims at eliminating the Hepatitis C virus in the country by 2024.

Through the initiative, Government seeks to screen about four million people aged 15 years and above, carry out viral load tests for about 230,000 people, and treat 112,000 chronically affected patients.

Hepatitis C is prevalent among 4 to 8 percent of Rwandan adults and it is known to be the second largest contributor of cancers in the country.

Addressing participants at the event, Mrs Kagame highlighted the role they should play in the fight against the disease, starting with saving a minimum amount of funds on a daily basis.

“When we are looking for solutions, let us always remember what we have managed to achieve despite the fact that we did not have much,” she said.

“Let us jointly seek for ways of contributing towards the elimination of Hepatitis C,” she added giving the example of this possibility that, “A litre of fuel costs about Rwf 1000. If a person decides to travel by foot, he can save between Rwf 500 to Rwf 1000 daily. By the end of three months, you would have saved about Rwf 90,000, an amount that is enough to provide full treatment for a Hepatitis C patient”.

Present at the event were members of the Private Sector Federation, clergymen, leadership and officials from the Ministry of Health, among others who pledged to contribute to the cause.

Among notable pledges included, Msgr Fillipe Rukamba, the Bishop of Butare Diocese, who said that the Church will put in place special offering services for people affected by the Hepatitis C virus. He also promised that religious institutions would make efforts to sensitise the population about the disease; what it is and how it can be fought and prevented.

Speaking on the behalf of the Private Sector Federation, Mr. Robert Bafakurera said that the private sector will contribute five million dollars to the initiative during the 5 year period set for it.

Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, Director General of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre, highlighted and credited the effort by the Government put into negotiating with manufacturers to cut costs of the Hepatitis drugs over the time.

According to Nsanzimana, Hepatitis drugs now cost about 60 USD per dose as opposed to the 0ver 85000 USD in the recent years.

Hepatitis C is one of the major public health concerns affecting more than 71 million individuals worldwide.

The World Health Organisation estimated that, in 2016, approximately 399,000 people died from Hepatitis C, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer).

Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95 percent of people with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing the risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.