World Hepatitis Day (WHD) is observed every year on July 28 to help raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and influence real change to jointly facilitate prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E.
Because of a viral hepatitis-related illness, someone in the world dies every 30 seconds. The saddest thing is that this occurs while, with the existing prevention, testing, and treatment services available, every hepatitis-related death is preventable.
Hepatitis can affect anyone, but it has a disproportionate effect on the people and communities most underserved by health systems.
Challenging the Status Quo of Hepatitis:
The world is currently facing a new outbreak of unexplained acute hepatitis infections affecting children. This new outbreak brings focus to thousands of acute viral hepatitis infections that occur among children, adolescents, and adults every year.
Most acute hepatitis infections cause mild disease and even go undetected. In some cases, however, they can lead to complications and be fatal. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2019 alone, an estimated 78,000 deaths occurred worldwide due to complications of acute hepatitis A to E infections.
Global efforts prioritize the elimination of hepatitis infections B, C, and D infections. Unlike acute viral hepatitis, these 3 infections cause chronic hepatitis that lasts for several decades and culminates in over 1 million deaths per year from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
These 3 types of chronic hepatitis infections are responsible for over 95% of hepatitis deaths. While we have the guidance and tools to diagnose, treat, and prevent chronic viral hepatitis, these services are often out of reach of communities and are sometimes only available at centralized/specialized hospitals.
Key Messages & Objectives:
In recognition of World Hepatitis Day, both the WHO and the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) highlight the need to accelerate the fight against viral hepatitis and the importance of testing and treatment for the people who need it, through dedicated awareness campaigns.
WHO is highlighting the need for bringing hepatitis care closer to the primary health facilities and communities so that people have better access to treatment and care, no matter what type of hepatitis they may have.
WHO aims to achieve hepatitis elimination by 2030. To get there, WHO calls on countries to achieve specific targets:
- Reduce new infections of hepatitis B and C by 90%;
- Reduce hepatitis-related deaths from liver cirrhosis and cancer by 65%;
- Ensure that at least 90% of people with hepatitis B and C virus are diagnosed; and
- At least 80% of those eligible receive appropriate treatment.
The World Hepatitis Alliance’s campaign stresses the need to accelerate the fight against viral hepatitis and the importance of testing and treatment for the real people who need it. It also amplifies the voices of people affected by viral hepatitis calling for immediate action and the end of stigma and discrimination.
Alongside this, it focuses on the social injustice and inequity caused by the current lack of action on hepatitis elimination and on the positive action needed to get on track to meet the WHO2030 elimination goals.