As the international development community marked World Hepatitis Day on July 28, many wondered why viral hepatitis continues to kill over a million people every year in Asia-Pacific.
Viral hepatitis is still “poorly understood” in the region, where most people that are infected don’t know they have the disease even if its death rate triples that of HIV and AIDS, and is the leading cause of liver cancer.
That’s why Jennifer Johnston, executive director of the Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia-Pacific, urged the development community to do much more to raise awareness of the illness and pressure donors to put the necessary funds into fighting it. Two years after the World Health Organization launched its Framework for Global Action on hepatitis prevention and control, Johnston said now it’s time to show the world that we’re serious about combating viral hepatitis the same way we’ve demonstrated our commitment to stamp out other killer diseases like HIV and AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis — all of which have enjoyed much more donor support than viral hepatitis over the past few years.
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In Asia-Pacific, where the disease has a higher prevalence because the most common method of transmission is mother-to-child and not child-to-child like in Africa, the head of CEVHAP explained the region can draw on lessons learned from its experience battling HIV and SARS to encourage national governments to invest in liver health and stop this “silent killer.”
Click on the above hangout to learn more insights from Johnston, including what recent innovations in antiretroviral drugs for hepatitis B and C need scaling up with help from the private sector.
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