Message from Su Wang, World Hepatitis Alliance President

16 Mar 2020 Chris Wingrove

Dear Colleagues,

It is my honour to take up the role of President of the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) this year. It is a privilege to represent patients and the affected community on the global stage, and I’m looking forward to working with our members, the WHA global board and staff team over the next two years.

The start of my term has coincided with an unexpected health diagnosis. I was found to have early stage breast cancer and underwent surgery in January. I am doing well, and because I had bilateral mastectomies, the cancer was completely removed and I will not need chemotherapy or radiation. I have been working closely with Michael Ninburg and the WHA team since serving as president-elect last year, and we have been speaking regularly throughout my diagnosis and treatment. As I recover, past-president Michael Ninburg and the executive board will be fulfilling some of the duties of president. I’ve seen the strength of our team exemplified during this time, and I am grateful to Michael and the WHA team for their dedication, support and friendship.

While I have received excellent medical care, it is the breast cancer patient community that has blown me away. I have benefited so much from the women whose lived experience has given me an incredible wealth of experience to navigate the day-to-day of this journey and provided the emotional support to keep me going.This wisdom has come in many formsfrom speaking to them in person or on the phone, to conversations in online patient forums, and even through personal memoirs in books and movies. There is an awareness of breast cancer that makes support accessible, and patients can easily find advice that is relevant to them from time of diagnosis through their treatment and recovery.

I’m even more convinced now that we need a stronger and more visible patient community in the hepatitis world. We need the same kind of awareness and accessible networks of people with lived experience telling their stories and providing support for each other. I have a vision that when we do “find the missing millions,” they will not be overwhelmed or feel alone. Message from Su Wang, World Hepatitis Alliance President They will find the viral hepatitis community supporting them with powerful stories of lived experience, empowering them with the knowledge and voice to get the care they need, and giving them the tangible hope that they can live healthy and fulfilled lives. This experience has given me a renewed sense of determination to ensure that patient voices are heard at the highest levels and that #NOhep becomes a reality.

“This experience has given me a renewed sense of determination to ensure that patient voices are heard at the highest levels.” 

The start of my term as president begins in a landmark year for the hepatitis elimination movement. Countries now have just a decade to fulfil the promise they made in 2016 to eliminate viral hepatitis. We know the majority of countries are not on track to reach elimination. Huge gaps remain in funding and access to diagnosis and treatment. Over the next decade, we need to accelerate action to elimination. Patients and civil society need to be involved at every level of decision making.

We have the tools we need to eliminate viral hepatitis. With prioritization of resources and political will, elimination is possible. We must dismantle the barriers to elimination and ensure that prevention, testing and treatment are available to everyone, everywhere.

In 2020 WHA will be working closely with our partners to ensure that hepatitis is firmly on the global health agenda and countries are held to account for the promise they made in 2016. We will be empowering civil society with the knowledge and tools to effectively engage with policymakers, especially on the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and integration agendas. WHA will be using our platforms to give a voice to the affected community and civil society, championing their role in the development of health systems. We will highlight good practices, innovative models, and we will lead global advocacy efforts and campaigns including growing the NOhep movement and World Hepatitis Day. WHA has ambitious plans, I look forward to working with you to accelerate action so that we can reach elimination.

Su Wang, MD, MPH, FACP