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Tue 8 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Hepatitis C awareness low in UAE

A survey by Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. concluded that the majority of the UAE population is unaware of Hepatitis C.

A recent survey carried out by Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. on the level of awareness on Hepatitis C revealed that the majority of the UAE population is unaware of the disease. The survey was conducted on the occasion of the World Hepatitis C day, 1st of October, and was meant to analyse the behavior of the UAE population with regard to the disease.

The survey, conducted by Synovate research, studied the behavior of a varied group of UAE nationals and citizens. A well balanced mix of 330 Emiratis, Arab and Asian expatriates from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain were involved. The conclusions of the survey highlight the lack of awareness on how Hepatitis C is transmitted, the consequences of the disease and possible treatment of it.

The survey revealed that only 13% of the people surveyed had been tested for Hepatitis C. UAE nationals turned out to have the lowest rates; only 10% of them ever had themselves tested for the disease. Comparatively, Asians scored 17%. In addition, only 37% of the total people surveyed believed that Hepatitis C is a serious disease.

“The results of the survey are alarming, but not unexpected as we know that there has not been a lot of awareness creation done on the Hepatitis C disease. Public awareness and knowledge are the first steps to ensuring that people are protected against the disease. Visiting your doctor on a regular basis and being tested for the disease is an important way to protect yourself. Getting tested can be done with a very simple blood test,” said Rima Khadra, communications manager at Roche.

The survey also indicates the lack of information available to people about the causes and effects of the disease and the available treatment.

Only 24% of the people questioned had earlier learned about the disease, through their doctor. However, only 10% of them visited their doctor on a regular basis. Most people heard of the disease via word of mouth. 55% claimed word of mouth as the most common source of information.

The survey revealed that there are a lot of misconceptions around the modes of transmission of hepatitis C. Unlike most other serious and highly infectious diseases, people are not sure how Hepatitis C is contracted. Although people understood that the disease can be passed via blood, a very low percentage knew that contaminated personal items, like scissors or tweezers, can also cause infection.

170 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). While the majority of chronically infected patients can now be successfully treated, approximately one third may believe they should ‘watch and wait’, mistakenly believing they are so-called ‘healthy carriers’ of the hepatitis C virus.

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