My meeting on the 12th of September, 2019, with the new ELPA member, the hepatitis C organisation in Tbilisi, Georgia
Temur and Irina very generously agreed on meeting me in a very special restaurant, Belle ville, with old furniture and atmosphere, owned by a very famous cinema and drama actress, in the artistic, maybe bohemic, area of Tbilisi. We had typical heavy Georgian food and I finished with the biggest ice-cream ever seen in a restaurant. During the meal they answered my questions and told me about their work. It was very rewarding. Afterwards they invited me to Temur´s home, very spacious, high ceiling, old pictures, millions of books and paintings. His 90 year old mother was there to tell me more about ancient, brilliant times, that she missed very much. She spoke fluent German, so we had no communication problems. The whole apartment breathes high level of academic and literary life, of an informed bourgoisie from the old century, a world I love and nostalgically miss at times.
These are some of the things they told me about the work of their hepatitis C organisation.
. The church plays a role in the background and influences both political decisions and people´s attitudes and feelings as Georgia is a very christian society.
. Everybody in the country is getting hep c screening for free.
. The organisation is therefore working very hard on awareness, since the possibilities of getting diagnosed and treated are very good, due to the hard work of this organisation. Awareness is, therefore, there biggest challenge. Everybody has the right to screening but that is not enough for the Georgian organisation, since they share Julio´s (Burman, President of Hetz, the hep C org in Israel) opinion that people have the right to know about their health condiditons, everybody MUST get tested. They are looking for patients in all groups. So AWARENESS AND MILDLY FORCING PEOPLE TO GET SCREENED are their two mail goals and challenges.
. For WHD (World Hepatitis Day) they performed an important speech with the president, a campaign and an exposition as well. I had photos but my telephone was destroyed so I cannot present them here.
Everybody has the right to screening but only citizens have the right to treatment, free of charge.
. In spite of having no office for their organisation, exactly like RHC in Sweden, they have very good connections with the power and with the press, much due to the fact that Temur comes from a very prominent family with almost ”inherited” connections to government, universities, press and other channels. On top of this Irina used to work for the minister of health, which gives her very good insight in political decisions. However that is not to say that they are not working hard. I have rarely seen such idealism, such energy and eagerness to save people who suffer from hepatitic C as in Temur and his team.
. As an example of what they do: They literary stop people in the street and talk to them about hepatitis C and what can be done if people turn out to be future patients. Everything is possible in their search for awareness among people and their pushing people to get tested.
Stockholm on the 8th of Octobre, 2019
Vice president of ELPA, (European Liver Patients´ Association)
and president of RHC, (Riksföreningen hepatit C)