Islamabad-The Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar on Sunday launched National Hepatitis Strategic Framework- 2017. Addressing the participants, the minister said that practical steps are being taken by the government to reduce the incidence of hepatitis in the country.

She said that Pakistan has one of the highest burdens of disease with regard to Hepatitis B and C in the WHO EMRO region and there was a need to have in place a consensus National Strategic framework to control the spread of the disease.

She said that according to National Hepatitis Survey done in 2008, Pakistan has about 12 million people suffering from hepatitis B or C. Within the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Pakistan and Egypt bear 80 percent of hepatitis disease burden, she added. She said the role of Ministry of National Health Services at the federal level is policy formulation, regulatory and coordinating with stakeholders and provinces. “As a policy, we realized that Pakistan also needs to align its steps towards disease elimination, therefore, we asked the international experts to guide us as to which steps should we take to achieve disease elimination by 2030.”

She said the government was working to ensure safe blood transfusion and to ensure strict adherence to infection control practices in the healthcare facilities. She said, “We must encourage people to get tested and treat those who are infected.”

The minister said that her Ministry undertook some tangible steps for the effective prevention and control of hepatitis in the country like conducting the first countrywide National Hepatitis Survey in 2008, besides constituting the Technical Advisory Group on hepatitis.

This body guides the federal government and provincial hepatitis programs on way forward to achieve disease control. On the advice of Technical Advisory Group, the government introduced the new oral hepatitis drugs in the country and negotiated with the pharmaceutical companies to bring the cost down.

“Globally we have the cheapest hepatitis drugs available in Pakistan,” she added. The minister said technical Advisory Group also developed new hepatitis C treatment guidelines, which have been handed over to the provinces for use.

She said the role of the provinces will be of critical importance in implementing the strategic framework on the ground as the real test will be the results achieved in terms of decline in hepatitis prevalence and incidence in the country.

“I pledge all-out support to the provincial governments in undertaking this task,” she added.

She thanked CDC, WHO, TAG members and all the partners for their technical support and assistance in the prevention and control of hepatitis in Pakistan.