WHO urges countries to increase hepatitis testing and treatment
The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have called on countries to urgently increase hepatitis testing and treatment services in order to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
The calls come on the World Hepatitis Day 2018, which fell Saturday, and focused on the theme “Test. Treat Hepatitis”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said in a video statement, “We have a clear vision for elimination, and we have the tools to do it. But we must accelerate progress to achieve our goal of eliminating hepatitis by 2030.”
It said viral hepatitis B and C affected 325 million people around the world. Left untreated, these infections lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis, which together caused more than 1.3 million deaths in 2015 alone.
Worldwide, less than 20 percent of people had access to testing and treatment services for hepatitis B and C infections at the end of 2016.
To mark World Hepatitis Day 2018, WHO is holding several events with the Government of Mongolia, a country that is heavily burdened by hepatitis but also a champion in the global fight.
Over 10 per cent of Mongolia’s three million people are living with chronic hepatitis infection. The country started its national Healthy Liver Programme in 2017, with ambitious targets for 2020.
Aiming to speed up global progress, WHO is also releasing new global guidelines on hepatitis C treatment. The guidelines enable major simplifications in the delivery of curative therapy to the 70 million people living with chronic hepatitis C in the world.
“Eliminating hepatitis will require ongoing innovation, better medicines, and improved health services,” said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO Director for HIV and Hepatitis.
“Our new recommendations should pave the way for everybody with hepatitis C to access testing and curative treatment now.”
WHO and global partners are sharing the experiences of countries such as Mongolia to promote sustained political commitment and broad-based partnerships in many other countries.
Reinvigorated action and investments in viral hepatitis are necessary to achieve a world where transmission is halted and everyone living with viral hepatitis has access to safe, affordable and effective care and treatment.