Global deaths from viral hepatitis continue to rise, and more than 60% occur in the Asia Pacific region. Hepatitis B and C are chronic infections that may not show symptoms for a long period, sometimes years or decades. At least 60% of liver cancer cases are due to late testing and treatment of viral hepatitis B and C. Low coverage of testing and treatment is the most important gap to be addressed in order to achieve the global elimination goals by 2030.
There have been calls from public health experts to include viral hepatitis as one of the main targets for public health efforts – along with the ‘big three’ (malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS). While deaths from these ‘big three’ infectious diseases have gradually decreased over time, those from viral hepatitis continue to increase. And yet transmission is preventable, hepatitis B is treatable and hepatitis C is now curable with existing treatments.
Though almost all the individual countries in the region have been implementing preventive strategies for viral hepatitis-related liver disease include increasing access to clean drinking water and sanitation, HBV vaccination programmes for neonates, however, availability of screening tests for blood and tissue, donor recall policies, and harm reduction strategies are in their initial stages in most countries. Furthermore, many governments have put HBV and HCV drugs on their essential medicines lists and the availability of generic versions of these drugs has reduced costs.
Despite some promising examples of good practice from individual countries, more needs to be done. National governments, international and local community and diagnostic and pharmaceutical industries must recognise the urgency of this issue and collaborate to translate strategic plans into concrete action. There must be a renewed focus on prevention, early detection and timely referral to improve health interventions to reduce the burden of liver diseases in the Asia-Pacific region.
On 28 July every year, the World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places bringing the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. In 2020 the theme is ‘Find the Missing Millions’. Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and lives will be lost. On World Hepatitis Day, 28 July, IIHD India jointly with partners is organizing a 1st Asia Pacific Hepatitis Summit (virtual) inviting people from across the world, particularly resource constrained countries, including India – to discuss strategies and approaches to find the “missing millions”.
This invitation-only event is a virtual gathering of “thoughtful, iconoclastic doers” who share a common interest in practical solutions to address the issue. We expect several hundred people from emerging markets to participate, including policymakers, leading companies, entrepreneurs, NGOs, academic institutions, scientists/researchers, and other stakeholders.
We will focus exclusively on one of the most important practical challenge of addressing the public health issue of Viral Hepatitis, i.e. How to find missing millions?
A day agenda is structured with the following key sessions:
Session-1: What are the programmatic experiences and advancements in the delivery of hepatitis B & C testing in Asia Pacific countries?
Session-2: How the Government and Diagnostic industry should collaborate to address access and affordability issues of Finding Missing Millions?
Session-3: How Civil Society and the Affected Community should be engaged in overcoming barriers to find the Missing Millions?
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