TODAY -

Free treatment of Hep-C for prison inmates commences
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, September 06 2017: In a first of its kind in the whole of India, an initiative to provide free hepatitis-C treatment exclusively among the prison inmates was taken up jointly by Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE) and Nirvana Foundation in consultation with jail authorities at Manipur Central Jail Sajiwa today .

The free treatment was initiated to a total of 11 patients of Manipur Central Jail, Sajiwa.

On July 14, this year, awareness cum screening camp was held at the premises of Manipur Central for the prison inmates particularly those who are of drug user's background under the joint initiative of CoNE, Nirvana Foundation and Manipur Central Jail Sajiwa .

A total of 27 jail inmates participated in the camp.

Among them, 16 inmates were found to be antibody positive out of which 13 were confirmed RNA positive.

Out of the 13 inmates confirmed positive, 12 of them were given free treatment today under the medical supervision of district TB Cell Imphal East, senior Medical Officer Dr H Diamond Sharma.

One patient has been left out of the treatment since he was found to have been released from jail.

Nevertheless, he would be included in the free treatment process later .

Speaking at the free treatment initiation programme, Manipur Central Jail Sajiwa SP Phanitphang said that there has been no such initiatives taken up either by the Government or any organization for the treatment of Hep-C patients of Sajiwa Jail during his 34 years of service .

He said that earlier MNP+ had taken up some HIV related programmes inside the jail premises which was followed by the Prison HIV Intervention Programme taken up by Nirvana Foundation presently.

However, there has been no programme initiated in the jail premises on Hepatitis C .

"It is indeed a blessing for the jail inmates that a free treatment programme has been taken up by CoNE and Nirvana Foundation for the first time probably in the entire country exclusively for the under trial (UT) prison inmates who are from the drug users community.

They are very fortunate to have got this opportunity since they have been suffering for a long time," the SP added .

Nirvana Foundation Secretary Sobhana Sorokhaibam also informed that since Hep-C prevalence has been at an alarming rate in prison settings as per the finding of the camps held on July 14, 2017 which was approximately 50%, the Government should take up keen initiatives in the regard and provide free treatment to at least these sections of the society.

Therefore the State Health department should consider the matter as most serious and intervene immediately by providing free treatment to Hep-C patients .

CoNE president RK Nalinikanta while speaking at the occasion said that CoNE has taken up the free treatment initiative inside the jail premises to contribute towards achieving the Global Strategy of 'Eliminating' viral hepatitis by 2030.He further said that the free HCV treatment among the prison inmates is a part of the WHO core intervention components for elimination of viral hepatitis .

"Moreover, it is an initiative to draw the attention of State Government that HCV can be effectively treated inside the prison settings; and to generate evidence to advocate to the Government the need of replicating free HCV treatment programme as done in other States like Punjab and Haryana."
Nalinikanta also questioned as to why free HCV treatment has still not become a reality in Manipur despite the State being one of the highest HCV prevalent States in India.

He also said that the same initiative taken up by CoNE in the prison will continue for another two phases at the earliest .

Physician, Dr Diamond also said that since the free treatment programme taken up by CoNE is a pilot study, there is the need for advocacy towards the State Government to initiate free treatment .

While pointing out that Hep-C treatment in jail settings is doable, he said that awareness of Hep-C among the jail inmates and even the paramedic staff is necessary.

Jail intervention on Hep-C is a must.


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