World Health Assembly to consider Viral Hepatitis Elimination Strategy

This week, the UK will join 193 countries to change the course of history for viral hepatitis. At the 69th World Health Assembly, taking place from 23-28 May 2016, governments will decide to adopt or reject the Global Health Sector Strategy (GHSS) on viral hepatitis, 2016 – 2021, which sets a goal of eliminating viral hepatitis B and C by 2030.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK live with viral hepatitis, including 214,000 people with hepatitis C and an estimated 180,000 people with hepatitis B – yet it suffers from a lack of awareness and political de-prioritisation. The GHSS strategy signals a new commitment. It includes a set of prevention and treatment targets which will reduce annual deaths by 65% and increase treatment to 80%, saving 7.1 million lives by 2030 globally.

“We are at a turning point for viral hepatitis. Elimination is finally within our reach but it is imperative that governments commit to the strategy if we are to achieve it.” said Charles Gore, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust. “Saving lives will not only reduce the immense personal cost of viral hepatitis, but will also save money as health systems will no longer have to deal with large numbers of patients suffering from the consequences of untreated hepatitis.”

The strategy outlines a number of key targets that, if reached by 2030, would eliminate hepatitis B and C as a public health threat:

  • 90% of infants receive a hepatitis B birth dose vaccination
  • 100% of blood donations screened
  • 90% of injections are safe
  • 90% of people aware of their illness
  • 80% of people treated

Governments have already committed to combating viral hepatitis in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (Target 3.3). The GHSS and the implementation of national plans will be key to meeting this target, along with a number of specific actions, including a dramatic scale up of prevention, testing and treatment.

Ahead of the Assembly, The Hepatitis C Trust and the World Hepatitis Alliance are calling on governments to support the adoption of the strategy and the targets, and be part of eliminating a global killer. Charles Gore added “If governments reject the strategy, viral hepatitis will continue to be overlooked and underprioritised and the opportunity to save 7.1 million lives will be denied.”

Find out more about the World Health Assembly and follow live webcasts from the event here. You can also watch the World Hepatitis Alliance animated strategy video here.