World Hepatitis Alliance submits written intervention ahead of 73rd World Health Assembly

20 May 2020 Lucy Ferrier

The 73rd World Health Assembly took place virtually on Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 May. WHA submitted a written intervention, which drew on findings from our global COVID-19 survey, to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on people living with viral hepatitis and on hepatitis services. 

The statement is part of our continuous efforts to ensure that hepatitis remains firmly on the global health agenda. It urges Member States to seize the unprecedented opportunity presented by the current pandemic to make the most of synergies in screening opportunities and embed hepatitis elimination within evolving health systems. You can read the full intervention below:

The COVID-19 pandemic presents the biggest global health threat in a generation. Whilst the pandemic is affecting nearly everyone, it is having the greatest impact on the populations most undeserved by health systems. These same communities are disproportionately affected by viral hepatitis, a disease that claims more than 4,000 lives every day. The viral hepatitis community stands ready to play its part in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic to safeguard the lives of these at-risk and marginalised populations.

On the ground, hepatitis services are adapting to face the dual threats of COVID-19 and viral hepatitis, however, organisations need support from Member States to continue to deliver vital services at this time. The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted hepatitis elimination programmes across the world. Research conducted by the World Hepatitis Alliance reveals only 10% of services are still functioning as normal. Without the availability of effective prevention, testing and treatment services, our hopes of eliminating hepatitis by 2030 are diminished, and thousands of people affected by viral hepatitis are left facing an uncertain future.

The mass testing of populations for COVID-19 by Member States offers an unprecedented opportunity to test people for viral hepatitis at the same time. 290 million people live with viral hepatitis unaware, because of this countless lives are lost from a disease we can prevent and treat. If we can find the missing millions living with hepatitis unaware and link them to care we can get on track to eliminate hepatitis by 2030. Member States who seize this opportunity will strengthen health systems; reduce the future costs of hepatitis care and save millions of lives.