As much as 2% of UAE citizens suffer from chronic hepatitis C
DUBAI, UAE, May 1st, 2013 – Today, as part of their ongoing commitment to providing greater access to treatment and in their continued efforts to raise awareness of the growing prevalence of hepatitis C (HCV) in the UAE, MSD hosted an event to recognize the outstanding contributions of local charities in raising awareness and supporting UAE citizens with HCV in getting access to treatment. The event which brought together over 25 representatives, from some of the UAE's largest charities, NGO's and support groups; focused on how to raise greater awareness of the risks of this virus and the best ways to manage and treat the disease. Major charities who attended the event included, Red Crescent, Rahma Charity, Dar El Ber, Sharjah Charity Foundation, Dubai Charity Foundation, Sakr Bin Hamad El Qasimi, Fujirah Charity Foundation, RAK Charity, Al Ihsan Medical Centre, Patients' Friends' Committee, Human Appeal Association, Zakat Fund and Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity. As part of the event, MSD awarded several of these charities in recognition of their phenomenal contributions and achievements to supporting greater awareness of hepatitis C and providing new hope for the growing number of HCV citizens in the UAE.
Talking about their decision to host the event and commenting on the important role these charities play in the UAE, Mr. Mazen Altaruti, Managing Director of MSD in the Gulf said ' Hepatitis C is one of the most serious and dangerous viruses affecting patients in the Middle East, with estimates that over 800,000 people in the Eastern Mediterranean Region are newly diagnosed with hepatitis C each year. In the UAE, the prevalence is particularly high, with studies suggesting that as many as 14 out of every 100,000 suffers from hepatitis C. In Abu Dhabi, where incidence rates are the highest, it is estimated that as much as 23 out of every 100,000 people may suffer from the virus. Hepatitis C places a severe financial and emotional burden on both the state and UAE citizens who face the disease. To be able to host an event such as this one where we can truly recognize the tireless efforts of local organizations, who support HCV patients, who continue to work on campaigns to raise awareness of the danger so of this disease, so that lives can be saved and UAE citizens can live long and healthy lives is truly an honor. So often these organizations work behind the scenes supporting UAE patients and their families through the most difficult times in their life without ever expecting anything in return. These people and charities are truly the unsung heroes of UAE society and recognizing them here today, is just a small way in which we can honor their outstanding contributions to our local community.”
Adding to Altaruti's comments, Dr. Maryam El Khatry, who chaired the event, and is a Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Seif Hospital in Ras Khaima, as well as the Head of Emirates Gastroenterology Society, said “One of the greatest dangers of hepatitis C, is that the disease is often very difficult to diagnose, particularly in the early stages when the virus is often symptomatic. It is for this reason that many UAE citizens are already suffering from chronic hepatitis C by the time they are diagnosed. In fact according to the latest research as many as 69,000 UAE citizens may suffer from chronic hepatitis already.¹ Raising awareness of this silent killer is crucial if we are to truly start addressing the growing prevalence of this disease and the inevitable complications, such as liver disease and in many cases liver failure, that the virus eventually causes.”
'We are extremely pleased to be here today and have a chance to recognize both our colleagues and peers for the important work they continue to do, to raise awareness of the growing prevalence of hepatitis C in the UAE. Today is a great opportunity for us to all come together to discuss the ways in which we can create greater awareness of this virus and provide more support and access to treatment for these patients. It is important that we bring the needs of hepatitis C patients into focus if we are to prevent this virus from becoming an epidemic in the country. We hope that we will continue to receive support from the local community so we ensure that our charities and others like us are able to succeed in preventing the serious complications that hepatitis C can lead to if left untreated.' said Mohamed Soliman Albloushy, Manager of Zakat Affairs Department.
Hepatitis C already places a substantial financial burden upon patients, local communities and the UAE economy at large, with estimates suggest that to treat just one UAE patient with current standard treatment of peginterferon alfa and ribavirin could cost as much as 80,000 AED per year. An additional 100,000 AED is also spent to treat chronic liver disease and the complications it results in. The work of local charities and NGO's in the UAE who work to raise awareness of this disease and support access to treatment is crucial to reducing the prevalence of this disease and the financial burden that comes with it.¹