MITT NAMA, Egypt (Reuters) – When he heard of a campaign organized by the Egyptian government to shield millions of citizens for free to identify patients with hepatitis C, Hwaida Mabrouk did not want to sit the exam, but changed his mind after that many of his relatives and acquaintances have begun to gather Medical Centers for examination.
An Egyptian doctor is testing a woman's blood as part of a campaign to examine millions of citizens for free for the detection of patients with hepatitis C in Cairo in a photo taken on November 11, 2018. By Mohammed Abdelghani .
"In the first, I was afraid, I was afraid of what happened to all people," he told Reuters in the health unit of the village of Mitt Nama, in the province of Qalioubiya, near Cairo. "I was afraid of finding out if I had a virus."
After a quick blood test that lasted about five minutes, the nurse entered the heart of Hwaida and told her to be free of hepatitis C.
In October, Egypt launched an unprecedented campaign to examine more than 50 million adults for the detection of hepatitis C and to treat them for free as part of its commitment to eradicate the disease by 2022 .
Egyptian officials describe the spread of hepatitis C as one of the country's most serious health challenges, stating that eradication is a priority.
The World Bank states that Egypt, with a population of almost 100 million, has the highest rate of hepatitis C virus infection in the world and 4.4% of the adult population in Egypt suffers of a random investigation. The disease kills 40,000 Egyptians in the year, becoming the third leading cause of death after heart and cerebrovascular disease.
The campaign also includes free tests to detect major non-communicable diseases, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. These diseases account for about 70 percent of the deaths in Egypt.
* "A healthy past of history"
The campaign continues until April and takes place in three phases, each phase includes a number of provinces.
"This initiative is a huge initiative with a huge number of people and will help change the health map of Egypt," said John Jabbour, WHO representative in Egypt. The two major health problems, the C virus and all major non-communicable diseases and risk factors are eliminated. "
He described the initiative as "a healthy precedent that history will record".
Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus that travels through the blood. Usually, acute hepatitis C virus infection is not accompanied by symptoms, but a large number of people with chronic infections develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, but antiviral drugs can treat more than 95 percent of people with the disease. The number of people infected with the disease worldwide is around 71 million.
The most common methods of infection are unsafe injection practices, non-sterilization of medical equipment in a convenient manner, blood transfusions and blood products without examination.
The main reason for the spread of hepatitis C in Egypt is the multiple use of non-sterile injections during the fight against the spread of schistosomiasis decades ago.
The World Bank said in a report published this year that the blood supply to Egypt is being tested with a technology that does not detect most infections, particularly the hepatitis C virus.
The campaign, called the President's Initiative for C-Virus and the detection of non-communicable diseases, is not only free for anyone aged 18 or over, but also includes free treatments for people with these diseases.
The initiative is accompanied by a huge advertising campaign in the various media as well as by posters and publications spread everywhere to encourage citizens to participate.
The posters and posters, bearing the slogan of the initiative (100 million health) and the image of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, have invaded many of the streets of Cairo, which the campaign has achieved start of the second stage on Saturday.
Prime Minister Mustapha Medbouli told a news conference that 11.5 million people were tested during the first phase of the two-month campaign. The results showed that five percent of them became infected with hepatitis C.
Health Minister Hala Zayed said the results so far show that the number of people infected with the disease in rural areas is greater than in urban areas.
One Sunday in November, dozens of people, mostly women, arrived in the health unit of the village of Mitt, growing for free tests.
"I lost my health and, of course, my mother, and I did not lose my son Lassa Mouloud," said Hind Saad, a 30-year-old housewife who gave birth to her last child.
She said she was aware of the importance of the campaign when she learned that her aunt had discovered hepatitis C after the tests.
* Mobile control points
The World Bank is the main sponsor of the campaign and the Egyptian government contributes part of its budget. According to a government statement, the World Bank provided $ 133 million for the survey and $ 129 million for patients.
The bank said it hoped to transfer Egyptian experience in this field to other countries.
Due to the lack of government medical centers, the Ministry of Health has set up mobile checkpoints for churches, mosques, youth centers and even for roads, markets and underground stations.
In the nearby village of Bijam, the church hosts a mobile checkpoint every Sunday to make it easier for the faithful to perform the examination after Sunday mass. The church receives its Muslim neighbors who want to conduct the exam.
"The role was supposed to be strong and strong," said the head of the Church of the martyr Damiya and St. Thomas the tourist. "But Qais thought that during the period he was doing a complete survey of the Egyptians because of the virus we will get rid of".
"Since hospitals are not deployed in every region, we appreciate the fact that we are helping to open a place where the analysis will help the region," he said. "If I had the potential I would like to open every day, I would not have enough work to open every day".
The Egyptian rural population generally lacks adequate health services compared to city dwellers. There are no health units in some villages.
"There are many problems but we want to set priorities," Health Minister Hala Zayed told Reuters, "we have to start with a positive initiative … with something that affects the entire population."
He added that the government's strategy in the fight against hepatitis C is to examine and treat all adults at once so that the disease can not spread again.
"When we survey all the people at once and treat them at once, the prevalence rates will continue to be transmitted all at once, but if we do a survey and treat some people and leave the rest, the rest will be prepared", he said.
The ministry has taken measures to combat transmission in hospitals and health centers.
Prepared by Mahmoud Reza Murad for the Arab Bulletin – Edit Mohamed Al Yamani