Gaining Ground

Are we gaining ground with hepatitis C?

I suppose it depends on your perspective. If you are one of the ones who has been successful at acquiring treatment and go on to be cured it is looking good and so it should of course. If you are one of the people who have been denied access to a cure it looks very different.

There are many ways to measure successes or failures. We can look, as I did, above on the individual level, or we can choose to look at gains on a bigger scale. We often hear about the fight to stop or end this or that, and we have no such battle cry with hep C other than the “No Hep” campaign and some more local slogans. There is a World Health Organization (WHO) declaration to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. That came out of the world viral hepatitis summit in Glasgow in 2015. Globally we see millions of new infections annually, and in the face of the staggering numbers it seems an insurmountable goal to seek out elimination in 13 short years.

I don’t mean to be a downer about this, and for the 1000th time I will assert my faith in hope. I am not living in a fairy tale either, and we will never see an end to the suffering caused by hep C until we see a real and meaningful approach which means a plan that has set goals and targets that are both realistic and sustainable in a way that is compassionate and equitable.

Does that sound radical?

I don’t think so, but in the face of the continued indifference it may sound that way to some policymakers. There is no question that we need to act, and how we should act could be debated forever. There are many agendas, as many as there are people who would espouse their version of what is most important in addressing hep C.

As I see it, once again, it depends on where we are looking from when determining what gains we have made, but I have to believe that we have cured more people and we have seen leaps in the science which has enabled cure. But, we still have a long way to go before we will rest and feel secure that we have done all we could do for a much ignored issue – hep C. The social determinants of health will always be at the forefront as something we will struggle to solve in a model that puts dollars before health. The simple truth is that those people who have higher incomes and higher social status have better health outcomes, across the board no matter what the disease or condition.

Radical? No, not to me because it comes down to what is fair and equitable. We will be judged by history as a society by our actions now, as we have before. For my part, I want us to be remembered as a caring and compassionate people who stepped up did the just thing.

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