First NGO joint forum at liver meeting launches collaboration to eliminate hepatitis by 2030
The first NGO joint forum at the Asian Pacific Association for Study of the Liver (APASL) conference recently aims to build collaboration in support of national hepatitis policymaking and service delivery.
The forum gathered organizations from 13 Asian countries representing 30 NGOs, hospitals, research institutes and the pharmaceutical industry for a full day of workshops to identify actions needed to eliminate hepatitis by 2030.
The forum, convened jointly by APASL, the Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific (CEVHAP), the World Hepatitis Alliance and the Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control, was held in Shanghai, China, on the first day of the annual conference of APASL.
Traditionally a scientific organization, APASL opened up the conference this year to NGO participation. This opening up recognizes the vital part NGOs will play if elimination of hepatitis is to be achieved by 2030, and the importance of close collaboration between the scientific community and civil society.
Professor Stephen Locarnini, co-chair of CEVHAP, stressed, “We can end the hepatitis epidemic by 2030. With medical advancement, there is no excuse to turn a blind eye any more. Countries now need to build infrastructure and public awareness in the way they had dealt with other large-scale public health threats. Civil society groups such as CEVHAP play a key role in shaping the right policies and helping governments deliver the best outcomes.”
Professor Jin-lin Hou, president of APASL 2017, chair and professor of Hepatology Unit, Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China and also a CEVHAP Executive Committee Member, welcomed NGO participation at the conference. “The battle to fight hepatitis is not about treating 400 million or more cases by independent liver specialists. It requires health system reforms. NGOs play the indispensable role of bringing social problems to light and identifying gaps in health systems. We are glad to be able to host them at our conference this year.”
The forum examined the actions needed to overcome the four main barriers to elimination:
- Social impact: Reducing stigma, discrimination and marginalization of people living with hepatitis, and improving public education on the disease.
- Treatment and diagnosis: Scaling up treatment and diagnosis, reaching undiagnosed people, providing information and support to people with viral hepatitis.
- Treatment: building the infrastructure and training the healthcare workers who will be required to provide treatments.
- Access to therapy: ensuring that new treatments are available, accessible and affordable to all people with viral hepatitis throughout the region.
Conclusions drawn at the forum and a joint statement on regional NGO collaboration were presented in a seminar at the APASL conference.
Viral hepatitis is a silent epidemic that kills 1.4 million people per year globally. Asia Pacific is the centre of the epidemic where 1 million people die per year from viral hepatitis—a death rate three times higher than deaths from HIV/AIDS. Around the world, 400 million people live with chronic hepatitis, and the number will escalate as more undiagnosed people are screened and tested.
In May 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the Global Heath Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which set the goal to eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
Chronic hepatitis B is preventable by vaccination and manageable with existing therapies, while chronic hepatitis C is now curable in over 95% of cases.