1-3 March 2019, Penang, Malaysia
Positive Malaysian Treatment Access and Advocacy Group (MTAAG+), with partners Treatment Action Group and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, convened the first advocacy workshop on hepatitis C virus (HCV) diagnostics. The workshop presented the latest developments in HCV treatment and diagnostics and prepared community members to participate and raise advocacy concerns at the 4th National Hepatitis Conference (held later on 7-8 March in Kuala Lumpur). A total of 41 participants attended, including family medicine providers and other specialists, technical resource people, and community leaders working with or representing people living with HIV and/or HCV (PLHIV and/or PLHCV), people who use drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender people, incarcerated people, and sex workers.
- Strengthen treatment, harm reduction, and other healthcare advocates’ capacity and technical knowledge on HCV diagnostics
- Foster advocates’ leadership skills and prepare their meaningful community engagement in high-level national decision-making processes associated with timely regulatory approval, guidance development, and scale up of diagnostic technologies.
In addition, the workshop aimed for participants to exchange experiences from different districts and clinical settings, while ensuring the presence of medical expertise and breaking down the silos between medical professionals, advocates, and community members in order to build a coalescent yet diverse and active coalition.
Several strategies and themes emerged to scale up diagnoses, based on the Status Report on Availability and Accessibility of Hepatitis C Diagnosis in Malaysia:
- Increase awareness among people at risk (key populations) to encourage them to go for testing
- Increase decentralization of HCV health services outside hospital settings
- Improve surveillance and collect more comprehensive HCV-specific data
- Strengthen and escalate advocacy for treatment availability
To take concrete steps to address these strategies, advocates developed action plans and a comprehensive list of recommendations, which were presented to Malaysian health authorities in a civil society dialogue at the National Hepatitis Conference. Overall, the key outcomes of the workshop were a clearer overview of the hepatitis C situation in Malaysia and basic understanding of challenges related to HCV diagnostics and treatment among advocates. Furthermore, there was a renewed sense of solidarity and confidence in being advocates on hepatitis C, with a focus to ensure that there will always be civil society representation and input moving forward in national elimination planning.
Download the report below.