MEDIA RELEASE – Nagaland Drug User activists jointly filed a PIL against local government demanding Hep C treatment
Nagaland, India | 18 September 2018 – Four Patient groups of Nagaland filed a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) at the Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench on the 18th September 2018 on grounds demanding roll out of “prevention and treatment programs for Hepatitis C (HCV) in Nagaland” against the Nagaland Government and the Union of India.
The four patients Groups, a collective body of drug users, PLHIV and PLHCV comprising of ARK (Access to Rights and Knowledge) Foundation, NUN (Nagaland Users’ Network), HepCoN (Hepatitis Coalition of Nagaland), and (NNP+) Network of Naga People Living has resorted to the court’ intervention through the legal means to seek justice for those infected with Hepatitis C (HCV).
Ketho of ARK Foundation lamented that “ inspite of the efforts being put together by us in creating awareness, sensitization, facilitating treatment, advocating with the State and Central Government, it is really disheartening to know that still a program like that of AIDS has not been formulated. People continue to run door to door for treatment while the unfortunate category of people who cant afford treatment continue to die. Why should someone die of a curable disease?. We have to move the court to seek justice”.
In the PIL the petitioners states that it is particularly the case that mostly people from the poor economic background are affected vastly by this deadly Viral time bomb and for such class of people to get the testing, diagnosis and treatment facilities becomes a burden. That testing and diagnostics process alone for HCV is both costly and time-intensive, and consequently prohibitive to victims unless they receive some form of financial assistance, deterring the infected from seeking any diagnosis.
While the Nagalnd has had particularly poor documentation of Hepatitis C seroprevalence rate, and Hepatitis C always being an area of concern for the people of Nagaland, it was only in 2005-2006, that the Study Conducted by the Regional Medical Research Centre, NE Region (ICMR) Lab Reports did a small scale study on the disease burden among the Injecting Drugs Users (IDUs) in Kohima and as per the data 30 IDUs have been tested Antibody reactive for HCV out of a total sample size of 98 IDUs. That another two rounds of studies was conducted in the year 2006 and 2009 by the Indian Council of Medical Research and Kripa Foundation based on the Integrated Bio Behavioural Assessment (IBBA) in the State of Nagaland and found a Hepatitis C prevalence of 5.4% in round 1 (2006) and 8.7% in round 2 (2009) in Phek, and 16.7% in round 1 (2006) and 20.8% in round 2 (2009) in Wokha among IDUs, respectively. This study conducted in the two subsequent year shows a rapid increase in the rate of infection in the two districts at an alarming rate which only continues to increase. According to the Nagaland Hospital Authority, Kohima s most recent seven-year report, HCV prevalence in the general population is at 1.8%, which means that it is not only IDUs or other communities who are affected from the virus but also the general mass and the population, which has become a grave issue of public health concern. As a result, public health authorities must focus on the disease as it affects the population as a whole and not just a particular group or communities. Another study conducted by NHAK in joint partnership with MSD (Merck Sharp and Dohme) Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd in the year 2012-2013 during a ten month (September 2012 to June 2013) reported of 728 tested from the general OPD patients, where 50 patients were tested antibody reactive projecting a percentage of 6.8%, signifying a high rate of infection among the general population posing a grave threat to public health.
The Patient groups hopes that through this Petition, the court will pass verdict seeking for the intervention of the State Government and the Union of India and fast track the program ‘s implementing, which was announced on world Hepatitis day 2018 by the Union Health Minister, Shri J.P Nadda. The groups is also demanding the program to also cater the Mono-infected case and not just the co infected population of HIV with HCV.