Calling for greater commitment to the fight against hepatitis at the World Health Assembly

28 May 2015 Bridie Taylor

The 68th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA68) took place in Geneva from 18th-26th May. On 25th May, the World Hepatitis Alliance was invited to attend a technical briefing entitled “Changing the trajectory of three epidemics: HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections through the development of global health sector strategies” where discussions focused on the global strategies on HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs that will be launched next year.

The importance of tackling viral hepatitis was highlighted by a number of WHO officials. WHO Director General, Dr Margaret Chan called for global action to ensure a people-centred response to HIV, hepatitis and STIs. WHO’s Assistant Director-General for HIV, Tuberculosis (TB), Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, Dr Hiroki Nakatani, emphasised the important opportunities for addressing the diseases through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Discussions on the global strategies were also led by Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director, WHO Department of HIV and Global Hepatitis Programme, and Dr Shin Young-soo, Regional Director, WHO Office for Western Pacific.

The briefing was an opportunity for us to ensure the voice of people living with hepatitis is heard in the development of the global strategy. World Hepatitis Alliance CEO, Raquel Peck, led an intervention to highlight the need for governments to address hepatitis and adopt the targets set out in the global strategy. Furthermore, although viral hepatitis is addressed in the current proposed SDGs under Target 3.3, the language around the goal is weak, merely calling on governments to “combat hepatitis”. Therefore, the briefing also allowed us to urge for this language to be strengthened, striving to end the hepatitis epidemic (same language currently used for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria). Reminding participants of the fact that viral hepatitis was left behind in the Millennium Development Goals, we called for the global health community to advocate for more ambitious targets in tackling this global killer.