Americas region

Situation:

  • Around 6.6 million individuals in the Americas Region are infected with hepatitis B.
  • Approximately 7 million people are affected by hepatitis C in the Americas region.

 “Viral hepatitis continues to be a silent epidemic. Most people who have hepatitis B or C do not know they have the infection, because the symptoms tend to take a number of years to appear.”

Rafael Mazin, PAHO/WHO Senior Advisor on HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and Sexually Transmitted Infections unit

Response:

  • Some countries have started efforts to expand diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis. Brazil, for example, is incorporating the use of rapid diagnostic tests to expand access to treatment, and the United States has begun expanding testing for hepatitis C among people born between 1945 and 1965 and among high-risk groups.
  • The hepatitis B vaccine has been incorporated into childhood vaccination schedules in all Latin American and Caribbean countries with average coverage rates of over 90%.
  • More than 99% of donated blood in the region is screened for hepatitis B and C.
  • The region is also in the process of implementing its new regional action plan.

This situation is worrying given the high risk of developing chronic infection and complications like cirrhosis and liver cancer. Early detection and access to quality treatment at affordable cost could prevent many people from developing these complications.

Massimo Ghidinelli, Head of PAHO/WHO’s HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and Sexually Transmitted Infections unit

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