Citizens of indigenous nations are up to 10 times more likely to have hepatitis B or hepatitis C than the general population in their respective countries, according to a press release on meta-analysis data presented at the World Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Viral Hepatitis in Anchorage, Alaska.
“These data confirm that indigenous peoples worldwide are bearing a disproportionately high burden of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or both,” Raquel Peck, CEO of the World Health Alliance, London, said in the release. “More must be done to ensure that indigenous peoples everywhere are at the heart of hepatitis treatment and prevention programs.”
For HCV, the researchers gathered data for 11 countries, including 23 specific nations of indigenous citizens and 12 more broad groups from 1991 onward. Compared with their respective general populations, HCV rates were three times higher among Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders, three times higher among Inuit and Métis First Nations Canadians, and two and a half times higher among American Indian tribal citizens. There was insufficient data for New Zealand indigenous people and there was no significant difference for Alaskan Natives.
From 13 countries, including 106 specific indigenous nations and 22 more broad groups, the researchers found that HBV rates compared with the general population were four times higher in Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders, twice as high among Maori and Pacific Islander populations in New Zealand, five times higher among Inuit and Métis First Nation Canadians, and 10 times higher among Alaskan Natives.
Regarding the Alaskan Natives, however, the researchers noted that the studies did not account for universal HBV vaccination that has almost wiped out new infections in young people.
The researchers concluded that, for both HCV and HBV, disparities in access to health care, prevention and treatment, as well as higher rates of poverty, injection drug use and incarceration among indigenous citizens are likely correlated with the higher rates of hepatitis infection. – by Talitha Bennett