According to the World Health Organization, the Western Pacific Region bears 40% of the deaths worldwide from viral hepatitis with more than 1,500 deaths each day, in this region alone. Approximately, 94% of deaths are caused by liver cancer and liver cirrhosis brought about by Chronic Hepatitis B and C. Vaccination and treatment can prevent these deaths. In the Philippines, approximately one in seven adults are infected with hepatitis B and more than half a million have Hepatitis C. Hepatitis B alone accounts for more than two thirds of all cases of liver cancer – the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the country.
In addition to the impact of chronic viral hepatitis on the health of the infected, those living with Hepatitis B and C face stigma every day – mostly discrimination from employment . This is mostly due to a lack of information on the part of the general public about the disease.
Global Efforts to Control Hepatitis B and C
In the last decade, there has been increasing interest around the world to address the problem of Hepatitis B and C. For the world’s 8th leading killer, viral hepatitis has been long neglected. In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly ratified the Global Goals also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which include “to combat hepatitis.” The World Health Assembly has passed two resolutions on viral hepatitis in 2010 and 2014 calling for all Member States to address viral hepatitis in a comprehensive manner addressing awareness raising, data gathering, prevention of transmission, and access to care and treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has created the Global Hepatitis Program and has released treatment guidelines for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
In September 2015, the first ever World Hepatitis Summit issued the Glasgow Declaration on Hepatitis that called upon governments in all jurisdictions to develop and implement comprehensive, funded national hepatitis plans and programmes in partnership with all stakeholders and in line with the World Health Assembly Resolution 67.6 and, in collaboration with the World Health Organization, to define and agree on realistic yet aspirational global targets for prevention, testing, diagnosis, care and treatment. Last October, 37 countries of the Western Pacific region, including the Philippines, endorsed the Regional Action Plan for Viral Hepatitis urging Member States to develop National Action Plans for hepatitis and increasing access to life-saving treatment.
In parallel with the developments in policy and advocacy, there have been significant gains in drug development and access to effective and safe medications. These medications are available and are included in the Essential Medicines List of the WHO. Innovative ways to increase access to these highly effective medications are being explored by the WHO and governments worldwide.
-UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES MANILA
Information, Publication, and Public Affairs Office (IPPAO)