June 02, 2016
2 min read

World Health Assembly adopts strategies to end viral hepatitis, HIV, STIs

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During the World Health Assembly last week, member states adopted three global health sector strategies designed to end viral hepatitis, HIV and sexually transmitted infection epidemics, according to a press release.

The hepatitis strategy is the first of its kind to introduce global targets for viral hepatitis, the release said. These targets include a 30% reduction in new hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections and a 10% reduction in mortality by 2020. To achieve this, the strategy will focus on expanding vaccination programs for hepatitis A, B and E; preventing mother-to-child hepatitis B transmission; improving injection, blood and surgical safety; and increasing access to hepatitis B and C treatment.

While WHO reported that progress has been made in eliminating HIV, with an estimated 7.8 million HIV-related deaths and 30 million new infections averted since 2000, members passed the HIV strategy to further expand access to ART to all people living with HIV and increase prevention and testing efforts. The goal of the strategy is to reduce HIV-deaths below 500,000, reduce new infections below 500,000, and ensure there are no new infections among infants by 2020.

The assembly also adopted the STI strategy, which highlights the need to enhance prevention, screening and surveillance efforts, particularly for adolescents and other at-risk populations, and underscores the importance of controlling the spread of drug resistance. According to WHO, more than 1 million STIs are acquired daily worldwide. The agency estimated there are 357 million new infections annually, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis. Diagnostic tests for STIs are scarce in low- and middle-income countries, according to the release. Moreover, antibiotic-resistant STIs, especially gonorrhea, have rapidly increased recently, limiting treatment options for infected patients.

In addition to the global health sector strategies, the assembly also addressed the shortage of treatments and vaccines, particularly for children, which has been an increasing issue, the release said.

According to WHO, products that are most likely to become unavailable are those that are off-patent, difficult to formulate, have a short shelf-life or are produced by a limited number of manufacturers. To prevent future shortages, delegates called for better methods to monitor supply and demand, the development of notifications systems and improvements in financial management systems and vaccine affordability.

The delegates also urged WHO’s member states to increase funding for the organization’s global observatory on health research and development (R&D) — a database of R&D projects that includes pipeline products, clinical trials and research publications — to identify gaps in that area, according to the release. The observatory is a key component of WHO’s strategic R&D work plan, which includes an initiative for visceral leishmaniasis; a vaccine for schistosomiasis; a single-dose cure for malaria; the development of affordable biomarkers; drug development; and a multiplexed point-of-care test for acute febrile illness.