Every 30-seconds, a person dies from a hepatitis-related illness
The World Hepatitis Summit 2022 will review progress and renew commitments by global partners to accelerate action to achieve the global target of eliminating of viral hepatitis by 2030. The World Hepatitis Summit is convened in partnership between the World Hepatitis Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO), and is supported by Hepatitis Australia.
At the 2016 World Health Assembly, countries including Australia made a historic commitment to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. Since 2016, countries have met the global 2020 target of reducing the incidence of hepatitis B in children under 5 and the number of people receiving treatment for hepatitis C has increased 10-fold.
However, most countries failed to meet other 2020 targets. Timely access to the hepatitis B birth dose is still low in many low- and middle-income countries. Meanwhile, lack of awareness, limited political commitment, as well as stigma and discrimination continue to stop people accessing testing and care. It is estimated 354 million people globally are still living with this life-threatening infection and at least one person dies from viral hepatitis every 30 seconds. That’s over 1 million deaths per year – a greater toll than that from HIV and malaria combined.
“Hepatitis is one of the most devastating diseases on earth, but it’s also one of the most preventable and treatable, with services that can be delivered easily and cheaply at the primary health care level,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“Many of the reasons people miss out on those services are the same reasons they miss out on services for other health challenges – accessibility and affordability, because of who they are, where they live or how much they earn. We call on all countries to commit to realising the dream of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030, as part of a broader commitment to universal health coverage based on strong primary health care.”
Australia has been a world-leader in the response to hepatitis C through unrestricted access to direct-acting antiviral cures and access to harm reduction in the community. As a country we have successfully achieved over 95% hepatitis B vaccination rates for children at 12 and 24 months old. However, Australia has met no other hepatitis B national targets.
“Inequality, racism and stigma drive the viral hepatitis epidemics in Australia causing the burden of disease for hepatitis B to disproportionately be experienced by First Nations people and migrant Australians. The Australian prison system is a primary source of hepatitis C transmission and people in custodial settings have no access to regulated prevention strategies,” said Carrie Fowlie, CEO of Hepatitis Australia
“Australia has the tools but we need to ramp up momentum. To help us achieve the elimination targets seven priorities have been identified that the Australian Government can implement in the next 12 months. These are supported by community, clinical and research leaders in the Australian hepatitis sector.”
The Summit will showcase voices of affected communities, epidemiologic updates and progress towards the commitment to eliminate hepatitis by 2030. In June 2021, WHO provided interim guidance on the criteria needs to achieve to be validated for the elimination of Hepatitis B and C viruses. Seven countries that have piloted these criteria will share their experiences and progress on the path to elimination.
The new WHO Global Health Sector Strategy (GHSS) on viral hepatitis, 2022-2030, recently reviewed and noted at the World Health Assembly last week, will play a strong part in this summit, the strategy contains operational and strategic shifts to ensure that globally we are on track to achieve the 2030 goal of ending the disease of viral hepatitis.
Australia is going through its own process to update the National Hepatitis B and National Hepatitis C Strategies as the current strategies expire this year. The World Hepatitis Summit provides a key opportunity to ensure national policy aligns effectively with global guidelines, the regional and to maintain Australia’s position as a world leader in hepatitis elimination.
This third World Hepatitis Summit will open on 7 June 2022 with a high-level panel discussion featuring:
- Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO);
- Right Honourable Helen Clark, former Prime Minister, New Zealand;
- Professor Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, acting Health Minister, Egypt;
- Dr Tenu Avafia, Deputy Executive Director, Unitaid; and
- Charles Gore, Executive Director, Medicines Patent Pool.
“Women’s and children’s health needs to be a top priority if we are to achieve hepatitis elimination by 2030. Hepatitis B is a major public health threat requiring collective efforts to advance universal vaccination of new-borns against Hepatitis B and prevent mother-to-child transmission” said Right Honourable Helen Clark, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Board Chair of PMNCH.
Danjuma Adda, World Hepatitis Alliance President, said “We have come a long way, as a global community, in the drive towards hepatitis elimination. I thank the WHO and all partners for their support in this journey. We still have a long way to go to reach many populations affected by viral hepatitis. The World Hepatitis Summit promises to deliver on the power of the community, scientific and policy partnerships in driving the elimination goals of viral hepatitis.”
The World Hepatitis Summit 2022 will be attended virtually by delegates from more than 100 countries, including world leaders, ministers of health, public health officials, medical professional, parliamentarians, academics and representatives from organizations of people affected by viral hepatitis.
Australia will be well represented at the Summit with 19 speakers across the five day program and many more in attendance.