ISLAMABAD-President Dr Arif Alvi has said that as Pakistan has the world’s largest population of hepatitis patients, it was a must to prioritize the screening and early diagnosis of the disease and any delayed action could lead to a devastating liver cancer epidemic.
“Presently, Pakistan has the world’s largest population of patients living with Hepatitis C, a staggering 10 million cases... Without timely action, the number of HCV-infected cases in Pakistan may rise exponentially, leading to a devastating liver cancer epidemic,” the president said in his message to the nation on World Hepatitis Day annually observed on July 28.
He said World Hepatitis Day was commemorated to raise awareness about the critical issue of hepatitis and related diseases in Pakistan.
He said Hepatitis B and C viruses posed significant public health threats, causing immense morbidity and mortality worldwide.
“In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, a staggering 80% of the hepatitis C disease burden lies in Egypt and Pakistan. While Egypt has made commendable progress in combating hepatitis C, regrettably, our country remains a major contributor to this burden in our region,” he remarked.
The president said Hepatitis C was a dangerous, silent disease, often carrying no signs or symptoms until it has done significant damage to the liver.
We must realize that individuals infected with this virus continue to carry it for years, putting them at high risk of advanced-stage liver disease and cancer, he added.
He said in order to ensure the well-being of our nation, we need to prioritize the screening and early diagnosis of hepatitis C cases. It is our duty to actively screen our entire population and promptly treat those found positive, the president added.
“The consequences are alarming: numerous deaths, liver cirrhosis cases, and a significant burden on our economy. We cannot let this happen; we must take action today to secure a healthier and prosperous future for our nation,” he advised.
He said on World Hepatitis Day, the nation should reaffirm its commitment to making hepatitis prevention, control, and elimination a national priority. We are scaling up screening, testing, and treatment efforts while emphasizing preventive interventions nationwide.
President Alvi called for addressing the risk factors of the disease urgently, such as ensuring safe blood transfusions, using auto-disable syringes, strict infection control practices in healthcare settings, and implementing hepatitis B birth dose and adult vaccination.
He called upon all healthcare workers, stakeholders, and citizens to join hands in this crucial endeavour.
“Let us spread awareness about hepatitis prevention, screening, and treatment throughout our communities. Together, we can create a healthier and brighter future for Pakistan, free from the burden of hepatitis and its related diseases by protecting the health of our people,” he remarked.