Free screening and treatment for hepatitis C is being offered to all residents under the Dubai mandatory health insurance scheme.
Although strict rules on new visa applications remain in place for those with hepatitis, residents who have had hepatitis C diagnosed can now access care under the basic benefit plan.
According to the World Health Organisation, about 399,000 people die each year from hepatitis C, mostly from cirrhosis and liver cancer, often owing to late diagnosis of the disease.
According to Dubai Health Authority, about 0.23 per cent of the population has the disease.
“Ninety-eight per cent of the population in Dubai has the mandatory health insurance scheme and thus focusing on preventive medicine through this scheme ensures wide coverage and directly benefits the community,” said Humaid Al Qutami, director general of the DHA.
“The programme will especially help those with limited cover, it will lead to early diagnosis and reduce complications and provide financial and emotional support to patients with hepatitis C.
“Providing the whole community with such wide-scale preventive screening mechanisms has been possible because of the support of our partners, government and private.”
Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95 per cent of those with hepatitis C, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.
There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, although research is ongoing.
In 2017, the DHA funding department added screening services for diabetes, heart disease, newborn and developmental screening as part of mandatory health insurance cover, to provide holistic health screening services.
“This is yet another milestone in terms of health insurance cover after we launched the Basmah initiative in 2017,” said Ahmed Al Nuaimi, chief executive of Joint Corporate Support Services.
“Under this initiative, if a patient is detected with hepatitis C, the DHA patient tracking and follow-up centre is automatically notified.
“They ensure that the complete treatment process for the patient is smooth and streamlined,” Mr Al Nuaimi said.