The World Health Organization has called for elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030 – and this should be an achievable goal.
There have been calls from public health experts to include viral hepatitis as one of the main targets for public health efforts, along with the ‘big three’: malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. While deaths from these infectious diseases have gradually fallen over time, deaths from viral hepatitis continue to grow. And yet, transmission is preventable, hepatitis B can be treated and hepatitis C is curable.
While responses to the disease burden differ between individual countries, there are common barriers to the elimination of viral hepatitis across the Asia Pacific region. These include:
- limited availability of reliable data
- low public awareness of risk factors and understanding of transmission
- high rates of transmission in medical settings
- limited access to care for vulnerable populations, for example people who inject drugs
- stigma and discrimination against people with viral hepatitis
- financial barriers to diagnosis, treatment and care.
Despite some promising examples of good practice, more needs to be done. National governments and the international community must recognise the urgency of this issue and translate strategic plans into concrete action.