Did you know that Hepatitis B virus could be sexually transmitted? If not then you are among the majority of people who know very little about this disease. And when you consider the high cost of treating Hepatitis B and C with even the generic drugs that are available in the market, it makes this virus even lethal. “We see around 20 to 30 cases of Hepatitis B at our OPD on a weekly basis. It is more infectious and is transmitted sexually. Hepatitis C is mostly transmitted through blood transfusion if the patient is given infected blood,” said Dr Avinash Supe, dean of KEM hospital and director of medical education and major BMC hospitals. Those with Hepatitis B and C may not show any symptoms for a long time and pass on the virus to their sexual partners. He added that it is important to know that while Hepatitis is completely treatable among the adults now. Despite the high burden of the patients in India, there is little aggression in the way it is being dealt with. “Today we have generic drugs because patent barriers were challenged by patient groups and acitivists. The treatment would earlier cost as much as Rs10-13 lakh. Many patients simply died without access to treatment,” said Leena Menghaney, Head Access Campaign for South Asia. With the entry of generic drugs in the market the prices have come down by almost 10 times to Rs50,000 a month – a sum that still puts treatment beyond the reach of most patients.Rs50,000 a month – a sum that still puts treatment beyond the reach of most patients. Dr Samir Shah, head of department of Hepatology, Institute of Liver Diseases, HPB Surgery & Transplant, Global Hospitals, explained: “We are one of the few countries where the generic drugs are available. To make it affordable for the masses though the government will have to take steps.” While availability has been tackled by constant advocacy by different groups, affordability is the next battle for patient groups. “There is no public health programme to prevent and treat viral hepatitis. Pregnant women are not counseled and screened, neither are there any testing centres,” added Menghaney. Both Hepatitis B and C virus can stay in your system for a long time and there may be occasional flare-ups. Dr Shah summed it up by saying: “Ensuring that safe food and water is available to the patients will reduce the infections. Safe injection practices, carrying out blood transfusion properly and indulging in safe sex will take care of not just Hepatitis but most other infections.”