New Delhi: A plea seeking directions to authorities on testing and treatment of the deadly Hepatitis C, including free diagnostics and medication to patients, today prompted the Delhi High Court to ask the Delhi government to file a status report on the matter.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar also issued notice to the Delhi Government on the petition which sought direction to identify and publicise the names of hospitals, laboratories and medical stores which will provide testing and treatment of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) free of cost in the national capital.
The matter was listed for further hearing on December 18.
"That viral hepatitis caused by two high-burden viruses - Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C - is a major public health challenge that requires an urgent response.
"Globally it is estimated to have caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015, a number comparable to annual deaths caused by tuberculosis and higher than those caused by HIV," the petition said.
The PIL, filed by NGO Delhi Network of Positive People, through its president Paul Lhungdim, said HCV was a "life- threatening disease" and its treatment is expensive.
It said if medicine is denied in government hospitals, the patients may not even buy it, thus defeating the Delhi Government's aim to provide quality healthcare to all citizens.
"This is precisely the experience of people living with chronic HCV who have been repeatedly denied access to essential diagnostic tests such as viral load and HCV medicines in hospitals under the Delhi government such as Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) and GB Pant Hospital.
"Most patients have been forced to go to the private sector which charges much high prices," advocate Shwetasree Majumder, appearing for the NGO, said.
The other petitioner, a Delhi resident infected with HIV and Hepatitis C, sought urgent hearing saying he was in urgent need of treatment for HCV but unable bear the expenses. Lack of adequate treatment could prove fatal for him, he said.
The plea also sought direction to the state government to ensure that mohalla clinics are adequately equipped and authorised for HCV antibody testing and referral to hospitals for further treatment