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Infectious Diseases Q3 2022

Hepatitis can’t wait any longer for global action

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Cary James

Chief Executive, World Hepatitis Alliance 

We are running out of time to reach the goal of eliminating hepatitis by 2030. It will take increased commitment by governments and global institutions to make it happen.

At the recent World Hepatitis Summit, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated, “There are few diseases that we can realistically dream of eliminating, but hepatitis is one of them.”

Providing more access

There are over 350 million people living with viral hepatitis, mainly in low and middle-income countries.

But despite the availability of treatment and a vaccine for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C, over a million people die from viral hepatitis each year because these interventions are not provided to the people who need them. This is more than malaria and HIV combined. Most will die from liver cancer or cirrhosis.

There are over 350 million people living with viral hepatitis, mainly in low and middle-income countries. 

High-level advocacy and funding

There is an urgent need for increased investment in hepatitis and increased political will and advocacy towards its elimination by 2030.

WHO estimates that only USD 500 million is invested in hepatitis each year. However, malaria — which has about the same disease burden and lower mortality rates — receives USD 3.3 billion per year.

The hepatitis community calls for the prioritisation of testing and treatment for the communities most affected.

An integrated approach: the key to elimination

Global donors, institutions and national governments must increase their commitment. Viral hepatitis services must be integrated into existing health systems, including cancer prevention programmes and maternal and child health services. We must ensure that equity and the needs of individuals and communities are at the centre of the response.

The WHO’s new Global Health Sector Strategy (GHSS) for HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs, 2022–2030, provides an opportunity to reshape the global community, accelerate the response and encourage integrated care. Through partnerships and collaboration, now is the time to recommit to the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030.

Hepatitis can’t wait!

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