Professor Hellard at the inaugural meeting of the WHO STAC on HIV and viral hepatitis in Geneva
Professor Margaret Hellard has been appointed Co-Chair of the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) on HIV and Viral Hepatitis, which held its first meeting in Geneva, Switzerland last month.
Formed from an amalgamation of separate HIV and viral hepatitis advisory groups, the committee’s role is to provide WHO with strategic advice on HIV and viral hepatitis for the next several years.
“Much of the discussion focused on the strategies required to meet the 2030 targets to end the epidemics of HIV and viral hepatitis, and the work required so these targets might be achieved,” Professor Hellard, Burnet’s Deputy Director (Programs), said.
“HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C kill millions of people globally every year. The 2030 targets are important as they aim to substantially reduce the number of people dying from these diseases and the number of new infections occurring each year.
“This requires a multipronged approach including prevention, testing, treatment and access to effective vaccines.
“It also requires advocacy to ensure equity of access to testing, care and treatment, and also policy reform, particularly drug policy, which needs to be a health-related and harm reduction approach, as opposed to a law and order approach.”
Professor Hellard said that while WHO’s advice and technical support in dealing with HIV and viral hepatitis is relevant for all countries, it’s low- and middle- income countries who stand to benefit most.
“Australia is in the fortunate position; if we structure things well we can afford the new treatments, and testing and vaccines,” Professor Hellard said.
“But many countries need support with testing kits, patent laws, trade agreements around access to medications, and access to generics at affordable prices.
“This is where WHO can work at a global level to support regional and country-level approaches to get drug affordability.”
The WHO HIV and Viral Hepatitis STAC comprises clinicians, community members, leaders in policy, research, public health, and people from relevant backgrounds with expertise or a history of working in the sector from around the globe.