World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places every year on 28 July and brings the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. One of just four disease-specific global awareness days officially endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), WHD unites patient organisations, governments, medical professionals, civil society, industry and the general public to boost the global profile of viral hepatitis.
WHY IS WORLD HEPATITIS DAY IMPORTANT?
Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year – that’s as many as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. Together, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world. 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 first global 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: an opportunity to join together and raise the profile of viral hepatitis among the public, the world’s media and on the global health agenda.