At the 69th World Health Assembly, the governments of 194 countries unanimously voted to adopt the first Global Viral Hepatitis Strategy, which sets the goal of eliminating viral hepatitis B and C by 2030. The strategy involves prevention and treatment targets which, if reached, will lessen annual deaths by 65% and increase treatment to 80%, saving an estimated 7.1 million lives worldwide by 2030.
Viral hepatitis is the seventh leading cause of death, killing 1.4 million people each year — more than HIV/AIDS, or tuberculosis, or malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) refers to it as “one of the most prevalent and serious infectious conditions in the world.”
Hepatitis B and C are among the most common causes of liver cirrhosis and cancer. There are available vaccines and effective treatments for both forms of hepatitis, so that the targets delineated in the Global Viral Hepatitis Strategy are thought to be possible, and eradicating hepatitis by 2030 attainable.
“The adoption of WHO Viral Hepatitis Strategy signals the first step in eliminating viral hepatitis, an illness which affects 400 million worldwide. We congratulate governments for showing great ambition,” Raquel Peck, CEO of the World Hepatitis Alliance, said in a press release. “If governments remain committed, we will witness one of the greatest global health threats eliminated within our lifetimes.”
While adoption of the strategy shows political will, more work is necessary. A total of 36 countries had plans in place to eliminate viral hepatitis, and another 33 had plans in progress as of February. This means that 125 WHO Member States do not have national plans to eliminate viral hepatitis.
The World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) is a patient-led and patient-driven nongovernmental organization (NGO) that has 230 members states, and that provides global leadership and supports actions that will halt the viral hepatitis death toll and improve lives. Through advocacy and policy work, the WHA raises global awareness to give viral hepatitis the priority it deserves.
On July 28, World Hepatitis Day this year, the WHA will launch NOhep, the first global campaign to galvanize support to eradicate viral hepatitis by 2030. The organization is also planning a second World Hepatitis Summit in March 2017, which it is co-sponsoring with WHO, under the theme, “Implementing the Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis: Towards elimination of hepatitis as a public health threat.”
The 69th World Health Assembly, an arm of the WHO, took place May 23–28.