Hepatitis

Global Health Conferences, Infectious Diseases

The World Hepatitis Summit 2015

~Written by Caity Jackson (Contact: caityjackson@gmail.com)

The World Hepatitis Alliance team members. Photo Credit: Caity Jackson

Today, viral hepatitis kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria and has become the 7th major cause of death globally. Despite this, hepatitis has not received the same global attention as the other illnesses it shares the Top 10 global killer list with. The President of the World Hepatitis Alliance Charles Gore noted in his plenary speech ‘‘we felt honestly, neglected.” Neglected they are not today.

Walking into the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Center (SECC), one could feel the energy and urgency in the crowd. The first ever World Hepatitis Summit brought together a group of patients, NGOs, academics, and government officials that have long awaited their time in the spotlight. The Summit’s three-day meeting came in response to last year’s World Health Assembly Resolution calling for concerted action to reverse the ever-rising death toll from viral hepatitis. It serves as the beginning of a series of summits focusing on information sharing and “how we can scale up and not waste the precious resources we know are limited” said Gore. Those at the summit are passionately working towards increasing awareness about viral hepatitis, focusing on the draft WHO Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis which aims to reduce new cases of chronic hepatitis B and C by 90%, reduce hepatitis B and C deaths by 65%, and treat 80% of eligible persons with chronic hepatitis B and C infections by 2030.

Because viral hepatitis has been neglected for so long (viral hepatitis was not included in the Millennium Development Goals) much needs to be done rapidly to make up for lost time. In that context, the Summit, intended as an annual event, will focus on the public health approach to viral hepatitis and become the central forum for countries to share their experience and best practices in order to drive rapid advances in national responses. The inaugural World Hepatitis Summit made history; an effort everyone hopes will lead to reducing the burden on those afflicted by viral hepatitis.

For the full press release please visit the WHO Media centre

For another perspective, please visit the BioMed Central Blog

Community Engagement, Global Health Conferences, Healthcare Workforce, Infectious Diseases, Vaccination

World Hepatitis Day 2015 - Focusing on Prevention

~Written by Theresa Majesty (Contact: theresa.majeski@gmail.com; Twitter: @theresamajeski)

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that approximately 1.5 million people die each year from the various types of hepatitis caused by hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D, and E. It is estimated that half a billion people worldwide are infected with hepatitis B or C virus, the strains responsible for the majority of cases of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

In order to bring attention to the large global burden of disease caused by viral hepatitis, 2015’s World Hepatitis Day is July 28th. This date was chosen to honor the birthday of Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch Samuel Blumberg who discovered the hepatitis B virus and developed the first hepatitis B vaccine. This year the emphasis is on prevention, with the slogan “Prevent hepatitis. Act now.”

We can prevent hepatitis by providing safe food and water (hepatitis A and E), vaccines (hepatitis A, B, and E), screening blood donations and providing proper equipment to maintain infection control (hepatitis B and C). While hepatitis B and C can be treated, many people in low- and middle- income countries lack access to treatment due to a lack of screening and the high cost of treatment. Until screening and treatment options become more accessible and affordable, prevention messages are incredibly important.

To help people learn how to prevent hepatitis, the WHO World Hepatitis Day 2015 campaign focuses on four key prevention messages:

  1. Prevent hepatitis - know the risks
  2. Prevent hepatitis – demand safe injections
  3. Prevent hepatitis – vaccinate children
  4. Prevent hepatitis – get tested, seek treatment

Figure 1: A poster from World Hepatitis Alliance. 

If you’d like to get involved in raising awareness about hepatitis, please visit worldhepatitisday.org. There you’ll find some ideas on how to get involved, information on what social media campaigns have been formed, and materials to share to help spread the word that hepatitis is preventable.

The future of the fight against hepatitis looks promising. WHO has been increasing its efforts to fight hepatitis by establishing the Global Hepatitis Programme in 2011, and in 2014 moved that program to the cluster of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and Neglected Tropical Diseases to help facilitate work between HIV/AIDS and hepatitis programs (due to the high number of people around the world living with both HIV and viral hepatitis). Furthermore, WHO, in conjunction with the Scottish Government and the World Hepatitis Alliance, is organizing the first ever World Hepatitis Summit in Glasgow, Scotland over 2-4 September 2015. This invite-only summit will bring together policy makers, patients, and other key stakeholders to determine how best to make lasting progress to reduce the global burden of hepatitis.

There is still progress to be made by the global community in order to win the fight against hepatitis. Key efforts, such as establishing events to publicize the global burden of viral hepatitis and holding summits to bring together the stakeholders that can make a difference, are contributing to saving lives in the fight against viral hepatitis.