28 Jul 2021
World Hepatitis Day: Hepatitis Can’t Wait
By Lien Tran, a University of Melbourne PhD student working with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis at the Doherty Institute and Board Member of the World Hepatitis Alliance.
World Hepatitis Day is observed each year on 28 July bringing the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change.
In 2021 the theme is ‘Hepatitis Can’t Wait’, conveying the urgency of efforts needed to eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. With a person dying every 30 seconds from a hepatitis related illness, we can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis even in the current COVID-19 crisis.
In the Global progress report on on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infection released in May 2021 by the World Health Organization, of 325 million people living with a hepatitis infection globally, only 1 in 10 of people living with hepatitis B and 1 in 5 of people living with hepatitis C are diagnosed.
People living with hepatitis can’t wait for testing and to get diagnosed
If lefted untreated, chronic heaptitis B and C are the major risk factors for liver cancer. Liver cancer is the top cause of death in many countries and is the fastest growing cancer deaths in Australia. These onsets can be prevented by appropriate care and treatment for hepatitis B and cure for hepatitis C.
People living with hepatitis can’t wait for life saving treatments.
Of the global burden of viral hepatitis, three quaters are hepatitis B. The Western Pacific Region is the most prevalent of hepatitis B in the world with around 115 million people living with it. Majority of people living with chronic hepatitis B in the region acquired it at birth from their mothers or in early childhood when and where there was no effective prevention of mother to child transmission or hepatitis B vaccination.
Expectant mothers can’t wait for hepatitis screening and treatment. Newborn babies can’t wait for birth dose vaccination
The implementation of hepatitis B vaccination program in many countries has made reduction in the incidence of hepatitis B infection one of the few Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) health targets that are on track.
We are now 9 years to go to reach the elimination targets, all stakeholders can’t wait to accelerate action to achieve that ambitious yet achievable goals by 2030. These actions have to be led and partnered with the affected community. Community empowerment has to start with acknowleging the people as a social individual but not as a health condition, an infectious disease.
People affected by hepatitis can’t wait to end stigma and discrimination
In that call for action, our WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis at the Doherty Institute has been supporting and advocating for viral hepatitis response at global, regional and nation level. Some activities include:
- Supporting WHO and facilitating consultation process in the development of global health sector strategies on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections for 2022-2030.
- Creating and operational guide to assist countries in collecting monitoring and evaluation indicators for viral hepatitis.
- Providing regional laboratory support.
- Member of the Victorian Hepatitis B Alliance.
- Supporting WHO in the development of the interim guidance for country validation of viral hepatitis elimination