World Hepatitis Day is a day set aside in which the entire world collectively acknowledges all forms and strains of hepatitis. This was not always the case. In 2004, international Hepatitis C Awareness day was created by European and Middle Eastern nations, which was celebrated on October 1. However, different countries acknowledged hepatitis day on different days of the 2004 year. This continued until 2008, when the World Hepatitis Alliance recognized that the message would be clearer if everyone throughout the world celebrated together. That year, World Hepatitis Day was celebrated on May, 19.
The following year, however, the 63rd World Health Assembly met in May, so the date was changed to coincide with their meeting. That day was called World Hepatitis Day and its goal was to focus on raising awareness on national and international levels by combining the message throughout the entire world all on one day. In 2010, July 28 became the final date for the celebration of World Hepatitis Day because it was intended to honor the man who discovered the hepatitis B virus, Nobel Laureate Baruch Samuel Blumberg on his birthday, July 28. It has been celebrated every July 28 since.
Each year, a different theme is chosen. This helps each nation to plan events and outreach in a way that honors that theme. Typically, these events include free testing centers in major cities, discussions and panels to educate the public on the latest diagnostic and treatment options, and events to honor those who live with a form of hepatitis. Although the nations each get to plan and execute their events, the overarching goal is to provide awareness on a personal and on a public level about hepatitis and about an individual’s hepatitis status.
Why Does Hepatitis Need To Be Celebrated?
Currently, many nations have a lot of ignorance about hepatitis. Some people have never heard of hepatitis or they do not understand that there are different types of the virus. Many people have never been tested for hepatitis, so they have no idea that they are carrying the virus. This can cause long-term damage to their bodies and it can cause the spread of the virus, as they are not able to let others know that they are infected.
There is also a lot of misinformation about hepatitis. Some people believe that all strains of hepatitis are sexually transmitted, which leads them to be unaware that they have been exposed through dirty needles or a blood transfusion prior to 1992. Many people who lack awareness also become prejudiced about those who have hepatitis. There are assumptions made about someone who has any strain of the virus. These assumptions create stigmas, which can make it difficult for a person to feel safe requesting to be tested when they see their doctor. These stigmas can also make it tough for a person with hepatitis to seek emotional support through their treatment process. It can lead to a significant feeling of isolation, which can then lead to depression or even suicide. On a larger scale, stigmas and misconceptions about hepatitis can force it to be a taboo topic. The lack of discussion can carry over into a lack of acknowledgment in politics, which can lead to the lack of funding necessary to maintain testing and treatment clinics. Over time, if hepatitis remains unacknowledged, research money can be allocated elsewhere to areas where people are actively vocal about needing and demanding information and cures. Although some may think that World Hepatitis Day is simply about discussing one type of illness, it can truly open doors that lead to better prevention plans, more testing, faster treatment, more clinics, and better research toward preventative and curing medications.
What Can I Do To Get Involved With The Celebration Now or Later?
If you are interested in getting involved, you can decide how you want to celebrate. You may choose to join the World Hepatitis Day festivities on July 28 with the rest of the world and/or you may choose to acknowledge the meaning of the day on another date. Although the entire world chooses to celebrate on one day, the messages being shared and the goals being focused on are happening all year and can be recognized at any time. You might choose to do this in a personal way, such as by getting yourself tested and by discussing and encouraging testing with your friends and family. You may choose to acknowledge the day within your community, such as by contacting your local hospital or clinic and volunteering to assist them in some way during their free testing hours. You may wish to focus on your city or your state by contacting your local politicians to encourage them to support funding for hospitals and clinics in your area that treat patients with hepatitis. Many people choose to honor World Hepatitis Day through social media. This may include one or more postings on the days leading up to July 28 or at any time throughout the year that provide facts, statistics, and other information to one’s social media platform that encourage education and being tested for hepatitis. However and whenever you choose to participate, every voice adds to the chorus of World Hepatitis Day and it is that collective that brings education and openness to all.1-10
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