For the last decade, those of us involved in the field of viral hepatitis have rallied together around a vision: a world where people living with viral hepatitis have access to safe and affordable care and treatment, transmission is halted and people do not face social marginalization and inequality.
Never have we been as close to this vision as we are today. On World Hepatitis Day — July 28, 2016 — the hepatitis community launched a global movement to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. Titled “NOhep”, the movement aims to unite those working in the field of hepatitis and beyond, under one common aim; the elimination of a global killer by 2030.
On this day, the launch of NOhep was celebrated across the world. The world turned green and hundreds of events were held to commemorate the day, including screening and vaccination drives, public seminars, press briefings, marches, health fairs as well as more unusual events such as concerts, the illumination of well-known landmarks and a ‘Die-In.’ The last event was staged in central London by nearly 100 activists to send a powerful message to world leaders that there is no excuse for needless deaths and there’s no excuse not to eliminate viral hepatitis (see photo).
The launch of NOhep follows the recent adoption of WHO’s first ever Global Health Sector Strategy for Viral Hepatitis (GHSS) at the 69th World Health Assembly in May when 194 governments committed to a goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C by 2030. The Strategy is the most important document on these diseases to date, carrying a set of targets which, if reached, will reduce annual deaths by 65% and increase treatment to 80%, saving 7.1 million lives globally.
While the adoption of such Strategy shows overdue promise, political commitment to scale up interventions is still lacking in many countries and hepatitis, now the seventh leading cause of death globally, still remains under-recognized compared with other disease areas. In the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (target 3.3) commitments were made to “end” HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030 while in hepatitis the chosen word was “combat,” perpetuating a historic lack of priority around this disease.
With vaccines and effective treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C now available, the elimination of viral hepatitis is feasible and achievable and we, both patients and medical professionals, are at a critical juncture. We have the Strategy, we have the tools, but to ensure viral hepatitis is eliminated by 2030, we need to join together as this will require a massive scale up in testing and treatment and political prioritization. NOhep has been launched to bring different stakeholders together to raise awareness, take action and press decision-makers to meet these goals.
Since its launch on July 28, more than 1,000 people from across the world have signed up to NOhep and thousands of people and organizations, including governments, are using the social media hashtag #NOhep to stay connected. In India, for example, doctors have taken a pledge eliminate viral hepatitis and are using NOhep to raise grass-root awareness about hepatitis, influence real change in disease diagnosis and prevention through educational initiatives.
Hepatologists and primary care practitioners are critical to the elimination of viral hepatitis, being at the front-line of treatment, care and awareness raising. NOhep, which will run until 2030, is calling on all medical professionals to sign up to be at the front line of a movement. Sign up here: www.NOhep.org
Raquel Peck is the CEO of the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA), an international umbrella organization of more than 230 hepatitis groups established in 2007. NOhep is an independent initiative led by the WHA, acting as the secretariat, and a working group composed of civil society and multilateral organizations. Peck can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @RaqPeck.
Click here to read Cover Story: Taking the Next Steps in the Global Pledge for Hepatitis Eradication