Countering Hepatitis C: Kashmiri American Society ‘Kashmer’ provides free healthcare to patients

After many patients were diagnosed with Hepatitis C in Kashmir, life seemed hopeless. With medical care expensive and availability less, life seemed to have taken a negative turn for them.

But there was no bound to the happiness for the ten Hepatitis C patients after Kashmer, a Non-Profit Kashmiri American Society for Healthcare, Medical Education and Research successfully countered the deadly virus. The organisation also has over 40 patients which are currently undergoing treatment.

The ten patients were healed after the organisation had provided them with the prescribed courses and assistance, free of cost. Others were identified and their treatment processes began after rigorous verification.

“It was in 2013 when the virus was detected in the valley. I was the first person to be posted as a Junior Consultant Health in Anantnag. Most of the cases there and even here had gone through failed treatments. They would only be tested for Bilirubin when we know Hepatitis C virus cannot be detected in the test,” says Dr Mohammad Ashraf, a member of the society.

The doctors there had then tested the patients and many people were declared Hepatitis C positive. After a hue and cry, in January 2014, the cabinet chaired by Omar Abdullah sanctioned Rs 7.50 crore for the treatment of hepatitis-C infected population.

However, for many, the treatment was not affordable.

“I was a businessman and unfortunately my brother deceived me. I lost all my property. I would go to Tehqeeq Diagnostics and Dialysis Centre in Karanagar. Although some doctors were helpful there the technicians would suck our blood. Luckily, I found Kashmer and my tests and medicine were provided to me for free,” says a Hepatitis C patient sitting among other fully treated patients waiting for his certificate at Jamal Resorts, JCI Complex Ishbar Nishat.

Kashmer is registered with the State of New York and collaborated with its on-ground partners in Kashmir to help “the under-served population in Kashmir”.

“It came together in 2016. A group of Kashmiri American physicians and allied healthcare personel felt the need to come together as an organisation in a more structured way to have a platform for networking within the US and also a platform to give back to their native Kashmir,” says Dr Nahida Nazir, Representative and part of Healthcare delivery team Kashmer.

“We do a camp every year. We sponsored some surgeries for pellet victims in 2016. One of our more ambitious projects was Hepatitis C initiative that was to fulfil an unmet need of the stage number of Hep C patients that have been in the valley. It was mostly to get attention to it,” she says adding that the treatment is very gratifying and if the patients are not treated, more than 85 per cent can go on to develop the chronic liver disease and even hepatic cancer.

“It is a short treatment and we treated 50 odd patients,” she informs.

Nahida says that treatment prevents further spread of infection as it is a blood borne disease, and creating awareness in communities about how it spreads and removing stigmas around is important. The patients need psychological and social care besides immidiate medical help.

Talking about partners who are playing a role, she says that through Help Poor Voluntary Trust, Kashmer has developed a comprehensive chronic kidney disease programme called “No kidney left behind”. As part of that, it has a wing to help dialysis patients.

“To Al-Imdad, other operational partners, we have donated dialysis machines to them. They operate at a low cost. We are trying to transit that to free of cost service. To Bokwut, we provide transportation relief to help patients get timely care during strikes and also help save them time and money; yield better results,” she adds.

In 2018, Kashmer has joined hands with Help Foundation, signed Memorandum of Understanding’s with Government Medical College, Srinagar and is planning to do a lung disease programme with them. It also plans to focus on De-addiction and detox quality counselling; and Mental health in Kashmir, “especially for it being a conflict zone.”


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