1. We’ve only got one life, and we’ve only got one liver. Hepatitis can devastate both.
As well as knowing our hepatitis status and seeking treatment, reducing alcohol, achieving a healthy weight, treating hypertension, and managing diabetes is key to a healthy liver.
The benefits of a healthy liver include:
Protecting your loved ones against hepatitis.
Protecting other vital organs, including the heart, brain, and kidneys, that rely on the liver to function.
2. Viral hepatitis still kills over a million people every year.
Combined, hepatitis B and hepatitis C cause 1.1 million deaths and 3 million new infections yearly.
350 million people are living with a chronic viral hepatitis infection.
3,000 people die from hepatitis every day. That’s one hepatitis death every thirty seconds.
Over 8,000 new hepatitis B and C infections occur each day. That’s over 5 infections every minute.
If the current trajectory continues, viral hepatitis will kill more people annually than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS combined by 2040.
3. Globally, there’s a huge number of undiagnosed and untreated people living with hepatitis. This must change.
Hepatitis infection is silent and liver health awareness is low. Most symptoms only appear once the disease is advanced, resulting in a huge volume of undiagnosed people living with hepatitis. Even when hepatitis is diagnosed, the number of people who go on to receive treatment is incredibly low.
Most people discover they have hepatitis B or C after many years of silent infection, and only when they develop serious liver disease or cancer.
Even after diagnosis, the level of treatment and care for people living with hepatitis is astonishingly poor.
Only 10% of people with chronic hepatitis B are diagnosed. Only 22% of those receive treatment – that’s just 2% of the total global health burden.
Only 21% of people with hepatitis C are diagnosed. 62% of those diagnosed receive treatment to cure them – just 13% of the total global health burden.
4. So many hepatitis infections – and deaths – can be prevented.
Offering easy-to-navigate services at local health facilities is key to successfully ending hepatitis.
To eliminate hepatitis and achieve the WHO’s ambitious targets by 2030, simplified primary care services for viral hepatitis should ensure that:
All pregnant women living with chronic hepatitis B have access to treatment and their infants have access to hepatitis B birth vaccines to prevent infection.
90% of people living with hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C are diagnosed.
80% of diagnosed people are cured or treated according to newer expanded eligibility criteria.
Hepatitis C can be prevented by adequately screening all donated blood, ensuring safe injection practices in health care settings, at home, and especially among people who inject drugs.
After years of climbing treatment numbers, current data shows that the number of people accessing the hepatitis C cure is slowing.
A 12-week course of medication to cure hepatitis C now costs 60 USD, down from the original costs of more than 90,000 USD when first introduced.
Hepatitis B can be prevented through vaccination and effectively managed via treatment. Treatment for hepatitis B now costs less than 30 USD per year (2.4 USD per month).
These price drops should boost treatment rates.
5. With COVID-19 no longer a global health emergency, now’s the time to eliminate viral hepatitis and meet our 2030 targets.
COVID-19 slowed the progress of the global hepatitis response in recent years. However, continued success in reducing hepatitis B infections in children proves that progress is possible. Now’s the time to prioritize testing and treatment to realize a hepatitis-free world and meet our 2030 targets.
The reduction of hepatitis B infections in children by effective vaccination practice is one of the few Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) health targets that’s on track. It’s also the only hepatitis target on track.
However, there are still too few countries in Africa that have access to hepatitis B ‘timely birth dose vaccine’, which is given in the first 24 hours after birth. Efforts to scale this up stalled due to COVID-19.
Giving more hepatitis B vaccines at birth is urgently needed to meet the SDG target of preventing mother-to-child transmission.