Cairo, 9 October 2023 (TDI): Egypt has achieved a significant milestone in the global battle against hepatitis C, becoming the very first nation to attain the “gold tier” status in line with the criteria set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This remarkable achievement demonstrates Egypt’s unwavering commitment to the elimination of hepatitis C, aiming to reduce new infections and fatalities to levels that can effectively bring an end to the epidemic.

Globally, an estimated 58 million individuals are grappling with chronic hepatitis C infection. While a vaccine for the disease remains unavailable, there are highly effective and curative treatments that span a mere 8 to 12 weeks.

However, a staggering 4 out of 5 people afflicted with hepatitis C worldwide remain unaware of their condition. If left untreated, this infection can lead to severe liver complications, including cancer.

In a commendable feat, Egypt has managed to diagnose 87% of its hepatitis C cases and extend curative treatment to 93% of those diagnosed.

These statistics surpass the WHO’s gold tier benchmarks, which mandate diagnosing at least 80% of hepatitis C cases and providing treatment to a minimum of 70% of those diagnosed.

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, lauded Egypt’s astounding journey from being one of the nations with the highest hepatitis C rates globally to becoming a trailblazer on the path to elimination within a span of fewer than 10 years.

This achievement, driven by modern tools and unwavering political commitment, serves as an inspiration for worldwide efforts to combat hepatitis C.

Egypt’s transformation is indeed remarkable, transitioning from a 10% hepatitis C prevalence rate to a mere 0.38% in slightly over a decade.

This transformation was underpinned by the establishment of the National Committee for Control of Viral Hepatitis in 2006 and a nationwide campaign dubbed “100 million seha” (100 million healthy lives) initiated in 2014 and reinforced in 2018.

This campaign provided free testing and treatment, resulting in over 60 million people getting tested and more than 4.1 million receiving treatment.

A key contributor to this success was locally manufactured direct-acting antiviral treatments, boasting a remarkable 99% cure rate among treated individuals.

Egypt also made significant strides in patient safety, emphasizing “doing no harm” through universal injection safety, blood safety procedures, and harm reduction strategies.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, hailed Egypt’s unwavering commitment and success, even in the face of daunting challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Egypt’s dedication has enabled it to test nearly the entire eligible population and treat almost all those afflicted with hepatitis C in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

Collaboration between the WHO Country Office in Egypt and the Ministry of Health and Population, supported by all levels of the organization, has expanded resources and brought Egypt closer to its goal of eliminating hepatitis C as a public health threat.

Dr. Naeema Al Gasseer, WHO Representative in Egypt, expressed her pride in Egypt’s recognition as the first country to achieve such remarkable progress.

She highlighted the extraordinary efforts of the Ministry of Health and Population, driven by political commitment and a commitment to equity and inclusion.

The achievement coincides with the 75th anniversary of WHO, underscoring the organization’s vision of improving public health and achieving health for all.

The WHO has played a pivotal role in supporting Egypt’s efforts, providing technical guidelines, advocating for a human rights-based approach, and ensuring the inclusion of vulnerable groups such as refugees and migrants in the campaign.

The organization continues to assist with capacity-building and community awareness initiatives.

As outlined in the 2023 WHO Guidance, countries can seek validation for gold, silver, or bronze tiers on the path to hepatitis C elimination.

Egypt’s groundbreaking achievement as the first nation to attain gold tier status signifies its substantial progress toward meeting all elimination targets before 2030.