When a global mission is set forth such as the global pledge to eradicate hepatitis by 2030, it is often seen as inactionable language and yet, that language is the foundation by which we have hope to make progress toward our lofty goals.
In reading the WHO statement on hepatitis eradication, I learned that only 89% of countries reported data adopted screening all blood donations for transfusion-transmissible infections, including HCV. While nearly 90% sounds promising, what about the millions of people in the other 11%? What justification could there be for not applying the most rudimentary technologies to screen blood and protect people from dying from HCV and/or other infectious diseases in the future?
And how do we make that point to our governments and policymakers?
What the pledge made by the AASLD and EASL, along with the Latin American and Asian-Pacific liver societies, does is provide a common language that physicians, advocates, health organizations in different countries and even pharmaceutical companies can use. It’s a universal language for communicating to policymakers the needs and urgency of the health crisis of hepatitis.
This statement, delivered to the WHO in the wake of its own Draft of Health Sector Strategies on Viral Hepatitis, defines the minimum standards that we, as hepatologists, expect for our patients. We can use this language to pressure governmental policy makers toward change because the implication is that this is the threshold for what’s acceptable around the world.
And both of these pledges to eradicate hepatitis — the joint societies’ statement and that of the WHO — support the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, a document I urge all of you to read.
This agenda sets 17 overarching goals broken down into 169 targets. In goal 3, the UN aims to: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” And within that goal, Target 3.3 states: “By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.”
The Draft Global Health Sector Strategy for Viral Hepatitis from the WHO lays out the vision for how to address section 3.3 from the Agenda for Sustainable Development, the part devoted to HCV. The joint statement by the societies provides the august weight of the major international societies to crystalize all the things liver experts around the world feel are necessary to meet these goals.
It is a powerful blueprint for what all countries can do to contribute to the eradication of hepatitis, supporting a much larger, global goal and, hopefully, making a difference on a practical level for those living with hepatitis.
I again encourage you to read the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development because it touches on almost all aspects of human affairs. It’s a very enlightening and inspiring document. Of course, the human race may have a challenging task to meet these lofty objectives. But laying out a blueprint like this is nothing short of inspiring to me.
You can find the document at UN.org/SustainableDevelopment.
– Ira M. Jacobson, MD
Co-Chief Medical Editor