World leaders meet at World Hepatitis Summit to discuss prevention strategies for viral hepatitis

Today marks the start of the first-ever World Hepatitis Summit hosted in Glasgow, Scotland, at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC). The World Hepatitis Summit is a joint World Health Organization (WHO) and World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) event hosted by the Scottish Government and supported by Glasgow Caledonian University and Health Protection Scotland. It brings together policy makers, patients, civil society, physicians and representatives from each of the World Hepatitis Alliance’s 200 patient group organisations.

This three-day meeting comes in response to last year’s World Health Assembly Resolution calling for concerted action to reverse the ever-rising death toll from viral hepatitis. New Global Burden of Disease data being presented at the Summit today shows, for the first time, the five year incremental increase in global deaths from viral hepatitis. It confirms the relentless year on year rise in the number of deaths. Viral hepatitis now kills more people than HIV/AIDS, or TB, or malaria and has become the 7th biggest annual killer globally.

Hosted by the Scottish Government - widely recognised as having ‘a world leading approach’ towards the testing and treatment of hepatitis C – the three-day Summit will discuss the draft WHO Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis with its targets for 2030 that importantly paves the way for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a problem of public health concern and on the national action required to reach those targets. Specifically the draft Strategy aims to achieve by 2030:

  • 90% reduction in new cases of chronic hepatitis B and C
  • 65% reduction in hepatitis B and C deaths
  • 80% of treatment eligible persons with chronic hepatitis B and C infections treated

Such ambitious targets will require governments to put in place national hepatitis strategies and the Summit will focus on providing countries with the necessary technical expertise with WHO-supported workshops on key elements of any strategy, including surveillance, effective prevention, access to treatment, scaling up service delivery and funding the response.

Commenting from the Summit Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance said:

We already have almost all the tools needed to eliminate viral hepatitis. What we don’t have yet is the commitment, the know-how and the funding to use these tools. This Summit is about empowering countries to take the practical steps needed at a national level; it is about how to take a vision and make it happen.

Because viral hepatitis has been neglected for so long, much needs to be done rapidly to make up for lost time. In that context, the Summit, intended as an annual event, will focus on the public health approach to viral hepatitis and become the central forum for countries to share their experience and best practice in order to drive rapid advances in national responses.

Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of the WHO Department of HIV/AIDS and Global Hepatitis Programme said:

We have seen from the global response to HIV what can be achieved when governments, civil society, international organizations and the private sector work together to provide prevention and treatment services to those who need them. The time is now for everyone to come together and work toward eliminating viral hepatitis as a major public health threat.

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