World Hepatitis Day, 28 July 2021: Hepatitis Can’t Wait

28 July is celebrated as World Hepatitis Day each year.

Background Information:

World Hepatitis Day is observed each year on 28 July to raise awareness of viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that causes severe liver disease and hepatocellular cancer. It is the birthday of Nobel-prize winning scientist Dr Baruch Blumberg, who discovered hepatitis B virus (HBV) and developed a diagnostic test and vaccine for the virus. 

This year’s theme is “Hepatitis Can’t Wait”.

There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D and E.

Together, hepatitis B and C are the most common which result in 1.1 million deaths and 3 million new infections per year.

The global target of the Sustainable Development Goals and the global health sector strategy to reduce the incidence of hepatitis B has been met, as measured by the prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen to less than 1% by 2020 among children younger than five years.

Supported by childhood immunization and prevention, the reduction in the incidence of hepatitis B infection is one of the few Sustainable Development Goals health targets that is on track to be achieved. Sustained and regionally focused scale-up of the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine and of treatment of the mother to prevent further hepatitis B transmission are required to achieve impact by 2030. In addition, there are massive gaps in hepatitis B diagnosis and treatment, including among the populations most severely affected and at higher risk.

New data show that 9.4 million people are receiving treatment to cure chronic hepatitis C virus infection, an almost 10-fold increase from the baseline of 1 million at the end of 2015. This scale-up of treatment has been sufficient to reverse the trend of increasing mortality from hepatitis C for the first time.

However, new data show that hepatitis B and C cause 1.1 million deaths and 3.0 million new infections per year. Only 10% of people who have chronic infection with hepatitis B virus are diagnosed, and 22% of which receive treatment. For hepatitis C infection, 21% of people are diagnosed and 62% of those diagnosed receive treatment. Price reductions have made hepatitis C treatment an affordable high-impact intervention, but coverage needs to increase nearly six-fold in the next decade to reach the 2030 targets for elimination.

Viral hepatitis disproportionately affects those who are economically disadvantaged, displaced people and migrants and rural populations. Further, injecting drug use is a major contributor to the number of people newly infected with hepatitis C globally. Many of these population groups overlap with groups recognized as especially vulnerable to STIs. Access to prevention, harm reduction and health-care services for these populations is largely insufficient, and persistent stigma, inequalities, criminalization and other socio-structural barriers are preventing response efforts from reaching the people who need them most.

Key Campaign Messages:

Messages for the Public:

  • People living with hepatitis can’t wait for life saving treatments.
  • Hepatitis B testing and treatment for pregnant women can’t wait. We can prevent  transmission from mothers to their babies
  • Newborn babies can’t wait for their hepatitis B vaccination at birth
  • People affected by hepatitis can’t wait to be protected against stigma and discrimination.
  • Community organizations can’t wait for greater investment.
  • Decision makers can’t wait and must act now to make hepatitis elimination a reality through political will and funding.

Messages for Policy Makers:

  • Integration of viral hepatitis elimination with other health services can’t wait.
  • Funding hepatitis care can’t wait.
  • Triple elimination of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis can’t wait.
  • Validating hepatitis elimination efforts in countries can’t wait.
  • Universal health coverage for all people with hepatitis can’t wait. Starting now means saving lives.

Messages for National Leaders:

  • Setting national hepatitis elimination targets can’t wait. A world without viral hepatitis by 2030 starts with your country.
  • Caring for the most vulnerable people with hepatitis can’t wait. Be it young children or people who inject drugs, some people are more exposed and at risk – their lives matter.
  • Scaling up of essential hepatitis services can’t wait.
  • Engaging communities in hepatitis services can’t wait.
  • Decision makers can’t wait and must act now to make hepatitis elimination a reality through political will and funding.

Useful Links:

Link to World Hepatitis Day campaign site:

https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-hepatitis-day

Link to Hepatitis Fact sheets:

https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-hepatitis-day/2021/fact-sheets

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