The global burden of disease and mortality from viral hepatitis is high. An estimated 57% of liver cirrhosis cases and 78% of primary liver cancer cases result from hepatitis B or C viruses’ infections.
In recognition of the importance of the public health problem posed by hepatitis, in 2010, the 63rd World Health Assembly designated July 28th as World Hepatitis Day and requested an integrated response in the fight against hepatitis. From then on, AHO have joined efforts with partners to establish strategies to fight hepatitis either at global and regional levels. This call to action offers an excellent opportunity to Africa for the approach to viral hepatitis as a recognized public health problem.
The focus should be on advocacy and awareness, knowledge and evidence, prevention of transmission, screening, care, and treatment;
The impact of viral hepatitis on morbidity and mortality in Africa especially among key populations and vulnerable groups; that disease and death caused by or associated with viral hepatitis imposes a substantial social and financial burden on the countries of Africa;
Viral hepatitis accentuates inequities in coverage of health services by affecting key populations and that interventions conducted early in life may drastically change the pattern of chronic hepatitis B in Africa;
Hepatitis B is a risk for the health care workforce in Africa and that access to curative treatments for hepatitis C can be a reality through concerted efforts in Africa and AHO is considering that elimination of hepatitis B and C as possible in the foreseeable future,
AHO Programme of action
- prioritize viral hepatitis as a public health issue, promoting an integrated comprehensive response and establishing specific targets to face the challenges entailed by this infectious disease;
- foster inter-programmatic synergies and activities within and outside of the health system, engaging all relevant partners and stakeholders, including civil society, in the response to viral hepatitis;
- optimise the efficient use of existing resources and mobilize additional funds to prevent and control viral hepatitis;
- strengthen and develop strategies for awareness campaigns to commemorate World Hepatitis Day with the goal of increasing access to prevention, diagnosis, care, and treatment services;
- maintain or expand hepatitis B virus vaccine coverage in children less than 1 year of age and adopt the policy of vaccination of newborns during the first 24 hours after birth;
- review vaccination policies and support their implementation to expand coverage of available vaccines among members of key populations and vulnerable groups;
- establish specific strategies for prevention of transmission of hepatitis B and C in key populations and vulnerable groups, including outreach and educational interventions as well as promotion of treatment, rehabilitation, and related support services that take into account national context and priorities to reduce the negative health and social consequences of illicit drug use;
- support strategies for preventing transmission of hepatitis B and C within and outside of health care settings;
- support the development of health-related policies, regulations, norms, and capacities at the country level for screening, diagnosis, care, and treatment of viral hepatitis (according to evidence-based normative guidance and ensure their implementation;
- promote inclusion of diagnostics, equipment, and medicines related to viral hepatitis in national essential medicine lists and formularies, and promote their access through price negotiation processes and national and regional procurement mechanisms such as AHO’s Fund for Strategic Public Health Supplies;
- strengthen countries’ capacity to generate and disseminate timely and quality strategic information on viral hepatitis, disaggregated by age, sex, and ethnic group;
- strengthen national policies, guidance, and practices related to blood safety and vaccination programs;
- eliminate gender, geographical, economic, sociocultural, legal, and organizational barriers that prevent universal equitable access to comprehensive health services, following the AHO Strategy for Universal Access to Health and Universal Health Coverage.