There has been an evolution in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C (HCV) due to highly effective direct-acting antivirals, however, restriction of treatment to medical specialists hinders escalation of HCV treatment. This is particularly true in resource-limited settings (RLS), which disproportionately represent the burden of HCV worldwide. The ASCEND study in Washington, DC, demonstrated that complete task-shifting can safely and effectively overcome a low provider-to-patient ratio and expand HCV treatment. However, this model has not been applied internationally to RLS.
The validated ASCEND model was translated to an international clinical program in Kigali, Rwanda, aimed at training general medicine providers on HCV management and obtaining HCV prevalence data.
The didactic training program administered to 11 new HCV providers in Rwanda increased provider’s knowledge about HCV management. Through the training program, 26% of patients seen during the follow-up period were screened for HCV and a prevalence estimate of 2% was ascertained. Of these patients, 30% were co-infected with hepatitis B.
The ASCEND paradigm can be successfully implemented in RLS to escalate HCV care, in a self-sustaining fashion that educates more providers about HCV management, while increasing the public’s awareness of HCV and access to treatment.