World Hepatitis Day is annually held on July 28 to promote awareness of hepatitis, a disease that affects the liver known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. The theme for World Hepatitis Day 2019 is “Find the Missing Millions” with a focus on finding people living with hepatitis who are undiagnosed and linking them to care.
Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver and can be caused by different things. One of the most common causes of chronic (long-term) hepatitis is a viral infection. According to the World Hepatitis Alliance, about 500 million people are currently infected with chronic hepatitis B or C and 1 in 3 people have been exposed to one or both viruses. The World Hepatitis Alliance first launched World Hepatitis Day in 2008. Following on, the UN declared official recognition of this event in 2010.
The World Health Organization (WHO) data show an estimated 325 million people globally are living with chronic hepatitis B or chronic hepatitis C. Viral hepatitis caused more than one million deaths each year, a number equivalent to deaths caused by tuberculosis and HIV combined. While deaths from tuberculosis and HIV have been diminishing, deaths from hepatitis are mounting.
Out of the 325 million people living with viral hepatitis globally, upward of 290 million are living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C without knowing. Unless there is a massive scale-up in screening, diagnosis, and linkage to care, more people will become infected and lives will continue to be lost.
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.
With the accessibility of effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C, the elimination of viral hepatitis is attainable, but greater awareness and understanding of the disease and the risks is a must, as is access to cheaper diagnostics and treatment.
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.