Published:21 May 2021 INFOHEP
Global targets for reducing deaths from viral hepatitis will not be met without massively accelerating universal access to testing and treatment, the World Health Organization said yesterday in a review of progress towards elimination of hepatitis B and C.The Global progress report on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, 2021 provides a snapshot of recent statistics on viral hepatitis testing and treatment, as well as recommendations for actions to accelerate progress towards elimination of viral hepatitis.
Around 1.4 million people died from viral hepatitis in 2016, 1.75 million people were newly infected with hepatitis C in 2015 and 1.1 million people were newly infected with hepatitis B in 2017, the most recent years for which the World Health Organization has collated data.
The report reveals that rates of viral hepatitis diagnosis remain low in all regions of the world. Less than one percent of people with hepatitis B in Africa and 2.3% of people with hepatitis B in the Western Pacific region have been diagnosed. Although hepatitis C diagnosis rates are higher in some regions – 36% in the Americas and 21% in the Western Pacific – WHO estimated that only 19% of people with hepatitis C knew their hepatitis C status at the end of 2017.
WHO estimates that $6 billion a year needs to be spent on viral hepatitis testing to achieve the elimination targets by 2030. Innovations in point-of-care testing are also needed to improve access to testing and to simplify linkage to care.
Five million people had been treated for hepatitis C using direct-acting antivirals by the end of 2017. WHO estimates that 9.4 million people are receiving treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus infection, a more than nine fold increase since 2015.
Lack of finance for viral hepatitis testing and treatment remains a major challenge for many countries but WHO points to successes in the development of national strategies for hepatitis elimination in Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean region, as well as the inclusion of hepatitis B treatment in China’s national insurance scheme.
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