World Hepatitis Day 2019

Find the missing millions was the theme for World Hepatitis Day yesterday, recognizing that, while many countries have started to implement WHO’s new testing guidance, 4 out of 5 people infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) still don’t know it. Concerted efforts to change this must include awareness raising – and making testing both accessible and affordable.

Our Unitaid-funded Hepatitis C Elimination through Access to Diagnostics (HEAD-Start) project is working to do just that, with a focus on serving people co-infected with HIV. HEAD-Start teams marked World Hepatitis Day with large-scale activities in both Malaysia and India.

In Malaysia, our HEAD-Start partner is the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), and together we joined forces with the Malaysian Ministry of Health to launch the country’s biggest-ever screening initiative for HCV. Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah acknowledged our work in his public statement. Malaysians had the opportunity to be screened for free throughout July in more than 100 hospitals, primary healthcare centres and FIND study sites, located across the country’s 14 states. Screening was conducted using a rapid diagnostic test that has now been integrated into the national program.

In India, we organized two conferences in the run-up to World Hepatitis Day – one in New Delhi along with the Institute for Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), where we launched the “Delhi model” that highlights best practices for HCV elimination; and another high-level event in Chandigarh with the government of Punjab Department of Health, where we signed an MoU to screen for HCV in prison inmates, a high-risk group for this disease.

WHO has set a goal of 2030 for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a major public health threat. To realize this ambition, 90% of people with HCV need to know their status. Our video below gives an update on the progress of the HEAD-Start project as we continue to work to achieve this target.