HIV patients with viral hepatitis are three times more likely to have liver disease, liver failure and liver-related deaths

1 Dec 2015 Bridie Taylor

On World AIDS Day, the World Hepatitis Alliance calls for increased recognition of viral hepatitis and HIV coinfections

London, 1 December 2015 - Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of non-AIDS-related deaths among people living with HIV[i], yet often goes undiagnosed. Similar to HIV, the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses are blood-borne, having similar transmission routes like sexual contact for hepatitis B and injection drug use and sexual contact for hepatitis C.

Viral hepatitis poses a serious health threat to people living with HIV. For many who are unaware or who have not been tested for hepatitis, they may experience the deadly effects of the virus without having any symptoms. Additionally viral hepatitis progresses faster in HIV patients, increasing the prevalence of liver disease among those with HIV/AIDS.

Colleen Price, a 45 year old survivor of hepatitis C and HIV, was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1997 and HIV in 2000. “It was not until 2004 that a specialist got through to me about the seriousness of combined hepatitis and HIV. The specialist said that if I did nothing for my HIV not to worry as I would likely die from hepatitis C far before my HIV.”

Today it is estimated that approximately 15% of people living with HIV are affected by hepatitis B and hepatitis C, resulting in a global burden of over 5 million.[ii]  With a large percentage of people living with HIV and viral hepatitis still often undiagnosed, it will be impossible to reach the WHO’s ‘Getting To Zero’ HIV strategy, without a huge scale-up in testing and treatment of both HIV and hepatitis.

Key measures need to be put in place by governments, healthcare professionals and civil society groups.

  • All persons living with HIV should be tested for hepatitis B and hepatitis C by their doctors
  • Treatment needs to be expanded broadly to include hard-to-reach and often-stigmatized populations such as injection drug users
  • Stigma needs to be removed which prevents people coming forward for testing
  • Infrastructure needs to be put into place and the price of diagnostics reduced to screen at-risk populations

 “On World AIDS Day we are highlighting the urgent need for governments, healthcare professionals and civil society to recognise the impact and global burden of coinfection between viral hepatitis and HIV, and to ensure adequate screening and treatment is available globally”, said Raquel Peck, CEO of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

 

More information:

Tara Farrell, Communications Manager at the World Hepatitis Alliance

Tara.farrell@worldhepatitisalliance.org

+44 (0) 20 7378 0159

Notes to editors

About the World Hepatitis Alliance

The World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) is an international umbrella organisation with over 220 member patients groups in 80 countries. Patient-led and patient-driven, we represent the 400 million people living with viral hepatitis worldwide. WHA strives to support and promote patient voices, to raise the profile of viral hepatitis and to establish comprehensive hepatitis strategies in all countries. Through better awareness, prevention, care, support and access to treatment, our ultimate goal is to work with governments to eradicate these diseases from the planet.

About viral hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. The most common types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Hepatitis A is spread mainly through ingestion of contaminated food and water and there are an estimated 1.4 million cases each year. Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person and approximately 240 million people are living with chronic infections. Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact such as unsafe injection practices and inadequate sterilisation of medical equipment. Without appropriate treatment, viral hepatitis infections can lead to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. Worldwide the disease kills 1.4 million people every year.



[i] Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV and Viral Hepatitis, 2014, Available at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/library_factsheets_HIV_and_viral_Hepatitis.pdf accessed November 2015

[ii] World Health Organization, HIV and hepatitis coinfections, Available at: http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/hepatitis/hepatitisinfo/en/ accessed November 2015