Meeting an unmet need: the road from Alice Springs to Brazil

23 Feb 2016 Tara Farrell

Viral hepatitis is a major, devastating and under-recognised health issue within Indigenous communities worldwide, affecting thousands of people each year.

Today, Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance, co-chaired the 2016 World Indigenous People’s Conference Workshop on Viral Hepatitis in Japan. The workshop was organised to highlight the issue of viral hepatitis in Indigenous peoples in Asia, where the high burden in the general population has often masked the particular challenges for Indigenous peoples.

The meeting brought together high-level panellists who called for better data on the prevalence and mortality in Indigenous peoples in Asia, more engagement with these communities and more specific WHO recognition of their plight.

The true extent of the burden of viral hepatitis amongst Indigenous communities is largely unknown due to gaps in the surveillance data. However, it is estimated that in North America, hepatitis B virus is three times higher among native indigenous people than non-indigenous population. In Australia, prevalence of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) among the indigenous population is also believed to be three times greater than the rest of the country.

The workshop is a follow up meeting to the inaugural meeting in Alice Springs in 2014, where the Anwernekenhe Consensus Statement was signed, which outlined people’s recognition that viral hepatitis is a major chronic disease in Indigenous peoples.

This meeting is a prelude to the upcoming World Indigenous People’s Conference scheduled to take place in late 2017 in Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon.

The workshop also coincides with the Asian Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver conference which is being held February 20 – 24.