At least 350 people have succumbed to hepatitis C over the past four months, according to Mohammad Yunus Bargani, coordinator of the national programme for HIV/Aids.
The blood borne hepatitis C virus attacks the liver. The virus can be transmitted through injection drug use or unsafe injection practices; unsafe health care and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products, according to World Health Organisation (WHO). There is still no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Ajmir from Ghazni has had chronic hepatitis for two years. He is admitted in a Kabul hospital for communicable diseases because authorities in the Ghazni government hospital he went to refer patients to private hospitals because they do not want to get involved.
"When I went to the government civil hospital the doctors told me they did not have medicines for hepatitis C, and I should go to a private hospital," he says.
Ajmir claims he had spent 15,000 Afs (220 USD) in private clinics in Ghazni on his treatment.
Ghulam Sakhi is another patient with hepatitis C. He complains that patients are forced to pay for the medicines. "When the government has established hospitals that are free of charge for the public why should we pay for medicines with our money?" he asks. He has been in the Kabul hospital for two months, and spent 19,000 Afs (280 USD) on treatment so far.
According to Ghulam Sakhi, the doctors in the hospital refer the patients of hepatitis C to a French hospital (in Kabul) for checkup, which costs roughly 8,000 Afs daily (118 USD). "I myself am a farmer and do not have the ability to pay such a big amount. If the cost of my treatment is so high I would choose not to be treated as I don't have the financial means," he says.
Authorities in the Ministry of Public Health say hepatitis C treatment is not on the list of free services in government hospitals.
Bargani, the HIV/Aids coordinator, believes the government cannot afford the cost of treatment for such large numbers of people. The ministry, he says, is trying to raise additional funds from outside the country for the treatment of hepatitis C in public hospitals.