On 28 May, 194 Member States made a historic commitment to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. At the 69th World Health Assembly, governments unanimously voted to adopt the first ever Global Viral Hepatitis Strategy, signalling the greatest global commitment in viral hepatitis to date.
The strategy sets a goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C by 2030 and includes a set of prevention and treatment targets that, if reached, will reduce annual deaths by 65% and increase treatment to 80%, saving 7.1 million lives globally by 2030.
Worldwide viral hepatitis kills 1.4 million people every year — more than HIV or malaria, and is among the leading causes of liver cirrhosis and cancer. With vaccines and effective treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C available, the targets outlined in the strategy are feasible and eliminating hepatitis by 2030 is achievable.
“The adoption of WHO Viral Hepatitis Strategy signals the first step in eliminating viral hepatitis, an illness that affects 400 million worldwide. We congratulate governments for showing great ambition. ” Raquel Peck, CEO of the World Hepatitis Alliance said. “If governments remain committed, we will witness one of the greatest global health threats eliminated within our lifetimes.”
Although the adoption of the strategy demonstrates considerable political will, more work will be needed to make the elimination of viral hepatitis a reality. As of February 2016, 36 countries had viral hepatitis national plans in place and 33 had plans in development. That means 125 WHO Member States don’t have national strategies to tackle this global killer. A dramatic scale up in resources and prioritisation is vital.
The World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) and its 230 member states will continue to work to ensure that countries honour their commitment and that they implement measures to reach the targets. On World Hepatitis Day (28 July 2016), WHA will launch NOhep, the first global movement aimed at galvanizing support toward the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030.