World Hepatitis Day occurs every year on 28th July, with the aim of uniting people around the world under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change.
In 2021 the theme is ‘Hepatitis Can’t Wait’, because a person dies every 30 seconds from a hepatitis related illness, so we can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis. The campaign highlights the need to accelerate efforts to eliminate this disease, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reasons for urgency are many:1
• People who are unaware that they are living with viral hepatitis can’t wait for testing
• People living with hepatitis can’t wait for life saving treatments
• Expectant mothers can’t wait for hepatitis screening and treatment
• Newborn babies can’t wait for birth dose vaccination
• People affected by hepatitis can’t wait to end stigma and discrimination
• Community organisations can’t wait for greater investment
• Decision makers can’t wait and must act now to make hepatitis elimination a reality through political will and funding
World Hepatitis Day is organised by the World Hepatitis Alliance, a global patient-led and patient-driven not-for-profit organisation with over 300 members in 100 countries. They work with governments and other key partners to raise awareness, influence policy change, and proactively work to identify the millions of people who are unaware that they have hepatitis.1
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. There are five main hepatitis viruses: types A, B, C, D and E, but hepatitis B and C are of the greatest concern because they are chronic, life-threatening, infectious diseases that cause serious liver damage, cancer, and premature death. Astonishingly, more than 300 million people are living with hepatitis B or C, which are the cause of 1.4 million deaths per year – more than HIV/AIDS and malaria.1
Why are hepatitis B and C such a global problem?
Hepatitis B and C have been called ‘silent epidemics’, because across the world, around 90% of people with hepatitis B and 80% with hepatitis C are unaware that they have the disease. This is a real problem because they are at risk of developing fatal liver disease or liver cancer at some point in their lives, and some people may unknowingly transmit the infection to others.1
What are the available treatments?
For hepatitis B there are effective vaccines and treatments, and hepatitis C can now be cured with potent antiviral drugs. So, with better understanding of these diseases and cheaper diagnostic methods, the elimination of viral hepatitis is achievable.1
It has been estimated that eliminating hepatitis B and C by 2030 would prevent approximately 36 million infections and save 10 million lives!1
To find out more about World Hepatitis Day 2021 and see how you can get involved, go to:
And don’t delay, because hepatitis can’t wait!
1. World Hepatitis Alliance: World Hepatitis Day 2021. Hepatitis Can’t Wait. Available at: https://www.worldhepatitisday.org/