Viral hepatitis in Asia Pacific
Global deaths from viral hepatitis continue to rise and more than 60% occur in the Asia Pacific region.
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.
What we’ve achieved
HPP has worked closely with the Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific (CEVHAP) for several years. In 2018, we completed a situation analysis focused on Indonesia – a country with unique challenges owing to its population being spread across 17,500 islands. The report identified key barriers to implementation of effective policy to combat viral hepatitis and recommended priorities to help Indonesia meet the WHO’s elimination target. The report was launched on World Hepatitis Day, and HPP provided communications support to help CEVHAP publicise its key messages.
Prior to this, we led policy workshops aiming to identify common strategies against viral hepatitis in different countries. Two of the workshops led to peer-reviewed publications: one focused on North Asia (in Journal of Hepatology) and one on countries of Southern Asia (in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology).
HPP is continuing to work with CEVHAP to help local stakeholders build effective policy responses to viral hepatitis. We are hoping to replicate the situation analysis conducted in Indonesia in other countries.
HPP undertook this project pro bono for the CEVHAP, and received no funding for this work.