World Hepatitis Day: Action Must Be Taken Before It’s Too Late
Every single year in the United States over 20,000 lives are lost to a disease that the vast majority of Americans know nothing about. Yet without greater collaboration and immediate action, we will miss our opportunity to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.
An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic viral hepatitis infection, and over 50,000 people are newly infected with hepatitis B or C infections every year. Despite these shocking statistics, all around the country there is little awareness or action to combat these illnesses and save lives. But it doesn’t need to go on like this.
Recent advancements in hepatitis C treatments which have dramatic cure rates have helped to propel an increasing global solidarity for the elimination goal after the adoption of the 2016 global strategy by the World Health Organization. Here at home we are moving forward in implementing the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan (2017 – 2020), and we are truly at a pivotal moment. Earlier this year the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine developed a consensus report confirming that elimination of hepatitis B and C in the United States by 2030 is possible. Report sponsors included the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease. It concluded that if action is taken now, over 60,000 hepatitis B deaths and 28,800 deaths from hepatitis C could be prevented by 2030. The report also stressed that significant commitment and collaboration along with serious ambition and action are critical to make elimination a reality.
As a clinician and patient advocate, I know the challenges we face implementing the key recommendations, such as ensuring access to treatment, widespread hepatitis B vaccination, needle exchange programs and greater diagnosis among those unknowingly infected. Not to mention the widespread lack of awareness and stigma associated with the disease. However, I am also encouraged. I am encouraged by the many stories of people who are being cured of hepatitis C, the children who are receiving life-saving hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations and the many who are living longer lives than they could have imagined.
On 28 July, World Hepatitis Day (WHD), patients, policymakers, medical professionals and the public must come together to raise awareness and take action against one of the worlds most neglected diseases, before it’s too late and we miss our opportunity.
This year the global theme of WHD is ELIMINATE HEPATITIS and is brought to life by the #ShowYourFace campaign. #ShowYourFace is digital campaign calling on people to show their face in solidarity of eliminating viral hepatitis. Each and every one of us has a part to play in the fight to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030 so #ShowYourFace on World Hepatitis Day and let's work together to ensure we meet this goal.
Global work toward eliminating viral #hepatitis starts at home. Add #WorldHepatitisDay events or find one near you! http://bit.ly/2tCVBXl