July 28th is World Hepatitis Day. Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year – that’s as many as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. Together, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.
Viral hepatitis is not found in one location nor amongst one set of people; it is a truly global epidemic that can affect millions of people without them even being aware. Currently, 90% of people living with hepatitis B and 80% living with hepatitis C are not aware of their status. This can result in the real possibility of developing fatal liver disease at some point in their lives and in some cases, unknowingly transmitting the infection to others.
With the availability of effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C, the elimination of viral hepatitis is achievable, but greater awareness and understanding of the disease and the risks is a must, as is access to cheaper diagnostics and treatment.
With the inclusion of viral hepatitis in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the recent adoption of the world’s first global hepatitis strategy, we are at a pivotal moment. Now more than ever political commitment is needed. Without urgent action, deaths will continue to rise and the epidemic will continue to grow.
The elimination of viral hepatitis has now been firmly put on the map. At the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva, 194 governments adopted WHO’s Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which includes a goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C in the next 13 years. The community responded by launching NOhep, the first ever global movement to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.
On WHD 2017, we can build on this momentum and accelerate progress towards achieving the goal of elimination by 2030.
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