The impact of stigma and discrimination affecting people with hepatitis B
The World Health Organization (WHO)
estimates that 296 million people worldwide live
with hepatitis B, with the virus claiming nearly
900,000 lives every year. The hepatitis B virus
attacks the liver and can cause both acute and
chronic disease. People living with the virus
are at a higher risk of liver cirrhosis and liver
cancer. Hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver
cancer, the third most deadly cancer.
The majority of people living with the virus are
unaware that they have the infection, resulting
in thousands of lives lost each year despite the
availability treatments that are both effective
and affordable in most countries.
Millions of people living with hepatitis B face
an added burden of stigma and discrimination.
Misunderstandings about how hepatitis B is
transmitted can affect people’s personal and
professional lives, dividing families, splitting
communities and restricting opportunities.
People living with hepatitis B are often
subject to discriminatory policies, which
are sometimes disguised as public health
interventions, but provide no benefit for
people with hepatitis B or their families. These
frequently impact their human rights to work,
study and travel.
Policy and decision-makers have an essential
role in ensuring that anti-discrimination laws,
public health policy, education and health
systems work together with civil society and
the affected communities to tackle the crisis of
stigma and discrimination.
In our white paper, we shed light on the effects of the
stigma and discrimination faced by some people
affected by hepatitis B and illustrate the lived
experiences of those impacted by the virus.