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However, I was unaware that around one in every seven of my neighbors carries the liver-damaging hepatitis C virus – at least 12 million Egyptians – the highest prevalence for HCV in the world.HCV treatment consumes $80 million, or 20 percent, of the Health and Population Ministry's meager budget. Beginning in 2008, 23 treatment centers were established nationwide, and around 28,000 patients per year successfully cleared the virus after a 48-week-long therapy. Yet only 1 percent of the Health and Population Ministry's HCV budget is allotted to prevention, which is considered a touchy, indeed, politically toxic issue. Any serious prevention effort must begin with the frank admission that health care facilities (hospitals, clinics, dental clinics, and pharmacies) with substandard infection control practices are threatening instead of improving people's health. Prevention, not treatment, is the way forward according to many experts, an effort that should start with an awareness campaign targeting Egypt's health professionals (numbering at least 376,000) and focusing on simple steps to improve hygiene.
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