The inaugural International Hepatitis C Awareness day, coordinated by various European and Middle Eastern Patient Groups took place on October 1, 2004, however many patient groups continued to mark ‘hepatitis day’ on disparate dates. For this reason in 2008, the World Hepatitis Alliance in collaboration with patient groups declared May 19 the first global World Hepatitis Day.
Following the adoption of a resolution during the World Health Assembly in May 2010, World Hepatitis Day was given global endorsement as the primary focus for national and international awareness-raising efforts and the date was changed to July 28.
World Hepatitis Day is now recognised in over 100 countries each year through events such as free screenings, poster campaigns, demonstrations, concerts, talk shows, flash mobs and vaccination drives, amongst many others. Each year a report is published by the WHO and the World Hepatitis Alliance detailing all the events across the world.
It’s imperative we enumerate some facts about the virus to create awareness:
- According to the Organization, there are 1.34 million deaths a year, related to Hepatitis.
- Hepatitis causes 2 in every 3 liver cancer deaths.
- 300 million people lives unaware they carry the virus.
- A cure for hepatitis C already exists.
- Treatment and vaccine for hepatitis B already exists.
- Global elimination strategy was adopted in 2016
With over 1,000 events held worldwide, 2017 was marked with screening and vaccination drives, public seminars, press briefings, marches and health fairs as well as more unusual events such as the illumination of well-known landmarks and music concerts. Throughout the world the day was supported by heads of state, ministers, celebrities, private corporations, civil society organizations, the media and the general public.
Viral hepatitis is not found in one location nor amongst one set of people; it is a truly global epidemic that can affect millions of people without them even being aware. Currently, 90% of people living with hepatitis B and 80% living with hepatitis C are not aware of their status. This can result in the real possibility of developing fatal liver disease at some point in their lives and in some cases, unknowingly transmitting the infection to others.
With the availability of effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C, the elimination of viral hepatitis is achievable, but greater awareness and understanding of the disease and the risks is a must, as is access to cheaper diagnostics and treatment.
With the inclusion of viral hepatitis in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the recent adoption of the world’s firstglobal hepatitis strategy, we are at a pivotal moment. Now more than ever political commitment is needed. Without urgent action, deaths will continue to rise and the epidemic will continue to grow.
World Hepatitis Day presents an ideal opportunity to join together and raise the profile of viral hepatitis among the public, the world’s media and on the global health agenda.
Mark July 28th in your calendar to create awareness of this deadly virus and disease.