Hepatitis viral infections, particularly hepatitis B and C (HCV), are a significant public health burden. For example, each year, up to 10 million individuals are infected with chronic HCV and almost 1.5 million individuals die from the infection. In a move to eliminate these infections, the World Health Organization (WHO) created the Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis 2016-2021. The initiative describes collaborative efforts that will work to reach the goal of “eliminating viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030.”
Although, HCV is a global public health threat, some countries are known as virtual epicenter of HCV infection, with the Eastern Mediterranean Region boasting some of the highest rates of hepatitis in the world. One of the countries in this region, Egypt, had an estimated prevalence of 7% in adults in 2015; the highest in the region. As such, officials in the country have moved to put forth several efforts in an attempt to curtail and decrease these infections. One such effort discussed this week is called, “Tour n’ Cure,” a new Egyptian initiative aimed at completely eradicating the disease through providing a low-cost treatment to participants, while simultaneously boosting tourism at the country’s tourism capitals.
During a week-long trip at a destination of their choice, participants receive a full medical exam and blood testing to determine the best treatment for their HCV infection. The receive the first course of treatment during their stay and they are then provided with the remaining treatment regimen after they return home. In addition, participants are required to provide follow-up blood work at 1 after initial treatment and 3 months after final treatment dose to ensure “that the virus has been completely eradicated” from their bodies.
Tour n’ Cure is promoting the program to help end HCV infection in Egypt through a social media campaign as well, promising that for every 1000 mentions of the hashtag #StoptheWait, one patient will receive free treatment. So far, the campaign has received 2000 mentions. Soccer star, Lionel Messi, is the celebrity ambassador for the initiative.
Learn more about the Tour n’ Cure initiative here.