Hepatitis C Progress Around the Globe
In just about every aspect of our lives, there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing progress. With hep C, progress to improve awareness, increase access to treatment, and reduce stigma has been steady over the past few decades. Nevertheless, every year, 1.4 million people die from hep C and/or hep B around the world.1
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A large number of countries have set goals to reduce infections and deaths due to hep C. The aim of these goals is to reach the global target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to reduce new viral hepatitis infections by 90% and reduce deaths by 65% by the year 2030.1 With less than a decade away, how on track are we to meeting these goals?
Low and middle income countries
According to WHO’s document "Global progress report on accelerating access to hepatitis C diagnostics and treatment", from the period of 2015 to 2018, countries demonstrated an increase in hep C treatment by 20 times. However, only 7% of people infected with chronic hep c across the world received treatment in 2015.1 While this is certainly progress, it still demonstrates that we have a long way to go.
The effects of the pandemic
The pandemic created challenges to meeting the worldwide goal. While 70% of countries set plans by 2017 to participate in WHO’s goals of hep C elimination, about 20% of those countries did not receive funding.2 This impacted the roll-out for initiatives involving screening and testing. This is in part due to the shift of healthcare resources to manage the pandemic, as some countries' healthcare expenditures are now tied up in mass vaccinations.
Highlighting major progresses
While we certainly have a ways to go before we can eliminate hep C, it is important to highlight the major advances. Without the direct-acting antivirals (DAA's), for example, we would not be where we are today in terms reaching cures. With generic versions of these antivirals being marketed, affordability in is on the horizon. In addition, 62% of people with chronic hep C infection live in a country where they can access generic DAAs for as little as $45 for the full treatment of 12 weeks.1 Affordability of treatment has been a significant progress.
Is reaching WHO’s goal realistic?
Some experts believe that the goal to eliminate hep C by 2030 is a stretch.3 They highlight that various measures need to be taken to ensure that we continue to progress towards these goals. These include:
- Enhancing awareness
- Point of care testing that encompasses HIV, HBV, and hep C
- Programs to reach higher-risk groups, such as immigrants or those incarcerated
- Sex education, particularly for high risk groups
- Micro-elimination, where the focus is to treat the most high risk populations
- Continued research to developing a hep C vaccine
What do you think is the most important step to ensure we reach our goals to reduce infections and deaths from hep C across the world? Share your thoughts below!
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