Away from the excitement created by Bill Clinton giving his Put Patient’s Health First to Improve Outcomes and Programme efficiency presentation today, a small group gathered for a Civil Society meeting on viral hepatitis called by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This informal meeting aimed to strengthen the engagement of civil society in WHO processes, enhance the dialogue on hepatitis-related work and build on the experiences of communities and groups living with, or affected b,y viral hepatitis undertaking advocacy work and providing services.
Worldwide, between 130 and 170 million people are living with chronic hepatitis C and another 250 to 350 million are living with chronic hepatitis B—resulting in approximately 1.4 million deaths per year. Recognising the tremendous burden caused by viral hepatitis, this small event is one of a number of initiatives WHO is implementing, in order to build capacity and mobilise resources to respond to viral hepatitis.
WHO established the Global Hepatitis Programme in 2010, following the adoption of resolution WHA63.18 (page 34) by the World Health Assembly, calling for a comprehensive approach to the prevention and control of viral hepatitis. Since then they have released:
- Prevention and Control of Viral Hepatitis Infection: Framework for Global Action (2012);
- Global policy report on the prevention and control of viral hepatitis in WHO Member States (2013);
- Guidelines for the screening, care and treatment of persons with hepatitis C infection (2014);
and convened a Global Partners’ Meeting on Hepatitis to discuss the current status of the epidemic, levels of response in countries and future actions for enhanced hepatitis control worldwide. This meeting resulted in a "Call to action to scale up global hepatitis response" which puts pressure on the global community to increase access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis.
Furthermore, a new global resolution to promote a comprehensive response to viral hepatitis was adopted by the World Health Assembly in June 2014. WHA67.6 calls for enhanced action to improve equitable access to hepatitis prevention, diagnosis, and treatment and asks countries to develop comprehensive national hepatitis strategies.
At the event today the development of guidelines for hepatitis B and the development of a global strategy and plan for viral hepatitis which would include targets for the elimination of hepatitis B and C, were two of a number of initiatives currently being worked on by WHO demonstrating that momentum at global level is beginning to gather pace, but as we have learnt from HIV, there is a long road ahead, with much more collective action needed as we begin the journey.