Study to assess impact of HCV self-testing on hepatitis C elimination takes off

Saras Ramiya
07 Sep 2021
Study to assess impact of HCV self-testing on hepatitis C elimination takes off
HCV test. Photo credit: FIND_Fadza Ishak.

A hepatitis C virus (HCV) self-testing impact study has been launched in line with Malaysia’s commitment to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030.

The study is being conducted by the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) in partnership with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC), World Health Organization (WHO), and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi).

The impact study was announced during the webinar ‘Hepatitis C can’t wait, Malaysia isn’t waiting’ in conjunction with World Hepatitis Day and followed WHO’s new guidelines which “strongly recommend offering self-testing for HCV.” [https://www.who.int/news/item/15-07-2021-who-releases-first-guidelines-on-hepatitis-c-virus-self-testing]

“Through this impact study, we will be able to understand if self-testing can increase testing uptake among people currently not reached by facility-based testing, which can expand equity and access in hepatitis C care,” said Datuk Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan, head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Ministry of Health.

The partnership with MAC is advantageous as the existing work done for HIV self-testing, via the online platform JOM TEST, is the basis for the HCV self-testing study aimed at testing those who may be missed by the usual facility-based testing.

Datuk Dr Christopher Lee, president of MAC, noted testing is a crucial part of hepatitis C treatment and enabled those tested to receive proper care. “We are proud to assist in this impact study to understand the impact of providing self-testing as an additional approach for diagnosis to help stop anyone from falling through the cracks, denying their access to treatment,” he added.

Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah welcomed the opportunity to work with global partners such as FIND, DNDi, MAC, and WHO to achieve hepatitis C elimination by 2030. “Malaysia is proud to be at the cutting edge of innovations to tackle hepatitis C, and all this is possible because where there is a will, there is always a way,” he said.

The global partners lauded Malaysia’s prompt action and commitment in the efforts to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030.

“We congratulate Malaysia’s swift action in responding to the WHO global launch of the first HCV self-testing guidelines,” said Dr Meg Doherty, director of WHO’s Global HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes. “This has implications for scaling-up testing coverage among key and vulnerable populations as well as among groups with a higher burden on hepatitis C virus infections and can facilitate national action towards elimination of the disease by 2030,” she added.

Hepatitis C continues to be a public health concern for most countries in the world. By implementing the self-testing study so soon after the release of WHO’s new guidelines, Malaysia is leading the way in assessing strategies that can defeat hepatitis C and providing information that will be critical not only for Malaysia but also for many other countries, said Dr Bill Rodriguez, CEO of FIND. “It is a privilege to be part of this partnership that is so committed to disease elimination,” he said.

“Hepatitis C virus is unique because we can design effective public health strategies of elimination with affordable treatments,” said Jean-Michel Piedagnel, director of DNDi South-East Asia. “After the announcement of the conditional approval for ravidasvir, this study continues to put Malaysia on the map as a warrior against hepatitis C. We are proud to be part of a team that continues to innovate on screening strategies to make elimination possible.”

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