The Urgency to Mitigate the Spread of Hepatitis C in Pakistan Through Blood Transfusion Reform

Document Type: Perspective

Authors

1 Department of Public Administration and Policy, Rockefeller College, University at Albany, Albany, NY, USA

2 Global Institute for Health and Human Rights (GIHHR), University at Albany, Albany, NY, USA

3 Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior, School of Public Health, University at Albany, Albany, NY, USA

Abstract

Blood transfusions are contributing to a higher rate of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in Pakistan. Half of all blood transfusions in Pakistan are not screened for hepatitis C, hepatitis B or HIV. Family members donate blood that is likely not tested due to social stigma attached to HCV. Paid donations are also quite common in the country, especially by people who inject drugs (PWID), which increases the population’s exposure to HCV. Most of the population utilizes the private sector for their health needs; this sector has lax regulation due to the lack of oversight by the government or any other regulatory body. In addition, groups who are at most need for blood transfusions, such as hemophiliacs and those with thalassemia, have a higher rate of hepatitis C. This fact reinforces the need for blood transfusion reform in Pakistan, which includes improving oversight, upgrading infrastructure and promoting health literacy through cultural norms, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. The lessons learned in Pakistan can be adapted to countries facing similar issues.

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