Controlling hepatitis C in Rwanda: a framework for a national response

Bull World Health Organ 2018; 96: 51-58 (Journal)

Mbituyumuremyi A., Van Nuil J. I., Umuhire J., Mugabo J., Mwumvaneza M., Makuza J. D., Umutesi J., Nsanzimana S., Gupta N.

With the introduction of direct-acting antiviral drugs, treatment of hepatitis C is both highly effective and tolerable. Access to treatment for patients, however, remains limited in low- and middle-income countries due to the lack of supportive health infrastructure and the high cost of treatment. Poorer countries are being encouraged by international bodies to organize public health responses that would facilitate the roll-out of care and treatment on a national scale. Yet few countries have documented formal plans and policies. Here, we outline the approach taken in Rwanda to a public health framework for hepatitis C control and care within the World Health Organization hepatitis health sector strategy. This includes the development and implementation of policies and programmes, prevention efforts, screening capacity, treatment services and strategic information systems. We highlight key successes by the national programme for the control and management of hepatitis C: establishment of national governance and planning; development of diagnostic capacity; approval and introduction of direct-acting antiviral treatments; training of key personnel; generation of political will and leadership; and fostering of key strategic partnerships. Existing challenges and next steps for the programme include developing a detailed monitoring and evaluation framework and tools for monitoring of viral hepatitis. The government needs to further decentralize care and integrate hepatitis C management into routine clinical services to provide better access to diagnosis and treatment for patients. Introducing rapid diagnostic tests to public health-care facilities would help to increase case-finding. Increased public and private financing is essential to support care and treatment services.

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