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A doctor consults with a patient about hepatitis C treatment yesterday afternoon at Phnom Penh’s Preah Kossamak Hospital.
A doctor consults with a patient about hepatitis C treatment yesterday afternoon at Phnom Penh’s Preah Kossamak Hospital. Yesenia Amaro

Program to fight hepatitis C

As of yesterday, a new program in Cambodia aimed at helping diagnose and treat people with hepatitis C – free of charge – had already seen about 500 patients in Phnom Penh in the course of less than a month, organisers said.

Médecins sans Frontières is working with the Ministry of Health on the new program, which will eventually expand to other parts of the country, according to Christophe Biteau, head of mission for MSF.

Under the program, a new clinic has been set up at Preah Kossamak Hospital, where patients are tested and will receive the 12-week treatment.

“We see in many hospitals . . . that a lot of people die from hepatitis C,” said Dr Chhit Dimanche, of Preah Kossamak. “We will reduce the mortality rate.”

There is a lack of data on the exact rate of incidence for the blood-borne virus and its mortality rate in the Kingdom, so the new program will also “provide important epidemiological and clinical information about [hepatitis C] and the genotypes circulating in Cambodia”, said Dr Laurent Ferradini with WHO Cambodia, which is also working with the ministry on the disease.

After receiving ineffective treatment in the past, patient Chi Pirum, 31, yesterday said she had renewed hope of beating the illness thanks to the free treatment. “I’m so happy,” she said through a translator, adding that she had spent a lot of money on treatment before.

In 2013, hepatitis was blamed for 1.46 million deaths worldwide, according to the WHO.

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Dr Chhit Dimanche.
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