Hepatitis may not be as notorious a disease as HIV/AIDS, but it kills almost as many people each year.
The World Health Organization, World Hepatitis Alliance and the Coalition for the Eradication of Viral Hepatitis in Asia-Pacific (CEVHAP) unveiled on Friday in Singapore the first Global Hepatitis Network to foster international collaboration in stemming viral hepatitis, a deadly liver disease said to afflict over 500 million people worldwide.
The network will help build capacity and strengthen national, regional and global action in tackling viral hepatitis through:
Evidence-based policy and data
Prevention of transmission
Screening, care and treatment
About 1.4 million people die each year of the disease linked to liver cancer that comes in five types, according to new data from the Global Burden of Disease Study.
Of these, over a million deaths occur in Asia-Pacific, a region that hosts three times as many people dying from viral hepatitis as from HIV/AIDS each year and nine times as many malaria deaths.
CEVHAP chair and co-founder Ding-Shinn Chen told Devex ahead of the launch that the new Global Hepatitis Network marks a milestone in bringing much-needed attention to the unfolding hepatitis “silent crisis” across the globe.
“My hope is that the new commitment this network represents will lead to governments adopting their own national strategies, with the support of experts from within the network. A lot of this work of course requires funding and that’s where CEVHAP is hoping that international donors and nongovernmental organizations will play their part,” he said.
Chen called for reforms in addressing the killer disease in the areas of improving available resources, extending existing HIV/AIDS frameworks to viral hepatitis, and increasing access to medicines, which remains a major challenge in developing countries.
Viral hepatitis, he explained, is a global problem, and its exclusion from initiatives such as the MDGs “has pushed viral hepatitis to the fringes of global health.”
“While malaria is rightly considered an African emergency, a silent crisis is occurring in Asia-Pacific as a result of viral hepatitis,” added Chen.
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