Today, WHO joins the global community in celebrating World Hepatitis Day with the theme “Hepatitis can’t wait”, calling on all countries to work together to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. A hepatitis-free future is achievable with a united effort.
Over 354 million people worldwide live with chronic hepatitis; over 8000 new infections of hepatitis B and C occur every day, and more than one million deaths from advanced liver disease and liver cancer occur every year.
The 2021 Global report on HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections, took stock of the progress achieved in the last 5 years, the setbacks caused by the pandemic, and the lessons learned for the coming decade. Although the extent of progress in the hepatitis response has differed drastically both across regions and across countries, there are some notable success stories including the impressive progress in the large-scale expansion of HCV treatment and the reduction of hepatitis B infections in children. The latter is one of the few Sustainable Development Goals health targets that are on track and a critical intervention to prevent liver cancer.
WHO recently launched first-ever global guidance for countries seeking to validate the elimination of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and/or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection as a public health problem. WHO also, released the first guidelines on hepatitis C virus self-testing, which strongly recommend offering self-testing for hepatitis C virus (HCV) as an additional approach to HCV testing services.
While progress has been made in the hepatitis response, there is still a long way to go. In far too many countries, priority interventions remain inaccessible to the populations most severely affected or at higher risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has impeded the development and delivery of core services that tackle viral hepatitis and other infectious diseases and NCDs. During this incredibly challenging year, we have witnessed the ability of health and community systems to adapt to continue to reach people in need. The lessons learned from the innovations developed during the pandemic response can inform core service delivery programming, as part of the overall effort to reduce persisting inequalities in access to health care and achieve universal health coverage.
WHO will host a virtual event to commemorate the day, with the participation of senior WHO officials, ministers of health, global and regional partner organizations, and communities affected by hepatitis.