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WHO launches “One life, one liver” campaign on World Hepatitis Day

Revolutionizing Liver Health: WHO Unveils the "One Life, One Liver" Movement on World Hepatitis Day

Geneva, 28 July: In a bold step towards eradicating the threat of viral hepatitis, WHO launches an inspiring campaign named "One life, one liver" on World Hepatitis Day. The campaign underscores the urgent need to ramp up testing and treatment for hepatitis, cautioning that if current infection rates persist, the disease could surpass malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV combined in fatalities by 2040.

Under the theme of “One life, one liver”, WHO’s World Hepatitis Day campaign highlights the importance of protecting the liver against hepatitis for living a long, healthy life.

Annually, hepatitis claims the lives of over a million people, causing liver damage and cancer. Among the five types of hepatitis, hepatitis B and C are responsible for the majority of cases and deaths. The silver lining is that hepatitis C is curable; however, a mere 21% of those infected are diagnosed, and only 13% receive life-saving treatment. Shockingly, a mere 10% of people living with chronic hepatitis B know their diagnosis, with only 2% of them receiving the critical medication they need.

Embracing the spirit of "One life, one liver," WHO's World Hepatitis Day campaign not only emphasizes the importance of safeguarding the liver from hepatitis but also highlights how maintaining optimal liver health benefits other vital organs like the heart, brain, and kidneys, which rely on the liver's flawless functioning.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, stressed, "Millions of people worldwide live with undiagnosed and untreated hepatitis, despite having better tools than ever to prevent, diagnose, and treat it. WHO remains committed to empowering countries to expand the usage of these tools, including affordable curative medications, to save lives and ultimately eradicate hepatitis."

WHO is all set to unveil new guidelines to monitor countries' progress towards eliminating hepatitis by 2030. To curb new infections and fatalities from hepatitis B and C, nations must take decisive actions, such as ensuring access to treatment for pregnant women with hepatitis B, administering hepatitis B vaccines to newborns, diagnosing 90% of hepatitis B and/or C cases, and providing treatment to 80% of all diagnosed individuals. Furthermore, they must actively work towards optimizing blood transfusions, safe injections, and harm reduction practices.

Vaccination, testing, and treatment stand as pivotal opportunities to shield your liver from hepatitis. One of the most crucial interventions is vaccinating children against hepatitis B, which has proven successful in reducing overall viral hepatitis infections. Encouragingly, the target for hepatitis B incidence is the only Sustainable Development Goals' (SDG) health target achieved in 2020 and remains on track for 2030. However, challenges persist, particularly in Africa, where access to the birth dose hepatitis B vaccine remains limited.

WHO strongly recommends that all pregnant women undergo hepatitis B testing during pregnancy, and if diagnosed, receive treatment, while ensuring their newborns are vaccinated. Yet, a recent WHO report indicates that only 32 out of 64 countries with policies reported implementing activities to screen for and manage hepatitis B in antenatal clinics.

As part of the campaign, WHO also calls for intensified hepatitis testing and treatment within HIV programs to safeguard people living with HIV from liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

In the face of a slowdown in the number of people receiving hepatitis C curative treatment, WHO urges countries to seize the opportunity of reduced medication prices to regain momentum in expanding treatment. The cost of a 12-week course of medication to cure hepatitis C has dramatically dropped to 60 US dollars for low-income countries from an initial 90,000 US dollars in high-income countries. Additionally, treatment for hepatitis B costs less than 30 US dollars per year ($2.4 US dollars per month).

For those committed to preserving their liver health, WHO strongly advocates for hepatitis testing, timely treatment if diagnosed, and vaccination against hepatitis B. Promoting a healthy lifestyle by reducing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing diabetes or hypertension also plays a pivotal role in maintaining optimal liver health.


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