Public health experts, patients and policymakers convene at inaugural African Viral Hepatitis Summit to discuss the need for comprehensive national plans

19 Jan 2016 Tara Farrell

Today, more than 100 leading African and international public health experts, patient representatives, policymakers and physicians have gathered in Dakar, Senegal, to discuss and better understand the burden of hepatitis B and C in Africa.

African countries have some of the highest rates of chronic viral hepatitis in the world. More than 32 million people in Sub Saharan Africa are infected with hepatitis C and 75 million are affected by the hep B virus. This ranges from about 13.6% of the population in Nigeria to 11% in Senegal and 5.7% in Ethiopia. In The Gambia, hepatitis B related liver cancer is the most common cancer among men and the third most common in women.

Spearheaded by Danjuma Adda, World Hepatitis Alliance Executive Board Member for the African Region and Executive Director of Chagro Care Trust, the Summit hopes to increase awareness of hepatitis and benefit all those working to establish a public health approach to preventing and treating these diseases.

“The hepatitis B or C epidemics continue to grow across the continent, and are becoming a serious public health issue,” said Summit co-chair Danjuma Adda, World Hepatitis Alliance Executive Board Member for the African Region. “This Summit is very timely and will benefit all those working to establish a public health approach to preventing and treating these diseases.” 

The key aims will be to:

  • Develop comprehensive national plans 
  • Strengthen healthcare systems and acquire accurate data on the huge disease burden
  • Develop adequate surveillance of the disease’s patterns
  • Reduce the cost of diagnostics and increase access to testing
  • Increase awareness of hepatitis and transmission routes

This year presents a vital opportunity to elevate the profile of viral hepatitis both in Africa and globally. In May, Member States will meet at the World Health Assembly to adopt or reject the World Health Organization (WHO) Draft Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which has a set out a list of goals and targets to help eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. Following the inaugural Summit, we hope that African Member States support the strategy to eliminate hepatitis in Africa.