Currently 400 million people worldwide are living with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C, with no country being left unaffected. For far too long we have allowed 1.4 million people to die every year. For far too long these deaths have been preventable.
So for these reasons the World Hepatitis Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO) have jointly organised the first ever World Hepatitis Summit, which convenes in Glasgow this week with support from the Scottish Government, 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. Make no mistake, this is a global milestone and it’s an incredibly important one.
If there is one ambition for this Summit, it is to finally pave a way to make the elimination of viral hepatitis a reality. The global community has worked extremely hard to tackle HIV/AIDS. The result is a plummeting death toll. Viral hepatitis in contrast has been almost completely ignored and has spiralled into a global epidemic. It is now the world’s seventh biggest killer. We must learn lessons from the response to HIV/AIDS. We need the same commitment to tackle viral hepatitis, right now.
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. So 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.
One of the key moments at this Summit will be the presentation of the draft WHO Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, with its targets for 2030. The strategy builds on the current WHO Framework for Action on Viral Hepatitis, published in 2012, and the 2010 and 2014 World Health Assembly resolutions on viral hepatitis. This strategy importantly paves the way for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a problem of public health concern and makes clear 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, and 80% of treatment eligible persons with chronic hepatitis B and C infections treated.
These measures and the very fact that governments, civil society, international organisations, and the pharmaceutical industry are coming together to collaborate at the summit shows us the time is now. Today, at the very conclusion of the summit we will be publishing the first worldwide declaration—the Glasgow Declaration on Viral Hepatitis—to ensure that we all commit to setting the targets that will finally put us on the road to eliminating viral hepatitis. Once and for all.
Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance.
Competing interests: None declared.