WHO calls for "commitment to action" in eliminating hepatitis

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-28 03:46:06|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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GENEVA, July 27 (Xinhua) -- On the eve of World Hepatitis Day 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries on Thursday to turn their commitment into action, by accelerating efforts and increasing investments to eliminate hepatitis.

Viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015, close to the number of tuberculosis deaths and exceeding deaths linked to HIV, the WHO said.

Viral hepatitis affected 325 million people worldwide in 2015, with 257 million living with hepatitis B and 71 million living with hepatitis C, the two main killers of the five types of hepatitis.

New WHO data show that more than 86 percent of countries have set national hepatitis elimination targets, and more than 70 percent have begun to develop national hepatitis plans to enable access to effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care services.

Despite the momentum gained towards hepatitis elimination, the WHO is calling on countries to continue to increased services.

"There is simply no reason why many millions of people still have not been tested for hepatitis and cannot access the treatment for which they are in dire need," said Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO's director of the HIV/AIDS department and global hepatitis program.

Though hepatitis C can be completely cured with antivirals within three months, only 7 percent of the 71 million people with chronic hepatitis C had access to treatment as of 2015, WHO data show.

As for hepatitis B, known for its high morbidity and mortality globally, people living with it usually need to receive the therapies for life as a cure for the disease hasn't yet been found. Though the WHO has helped lower the price of hepatitis B treatment to less than 50 U.S. dollars per year in many low and middle income countries, access to hepatitis B testing is still an urgent need.