Image: Professor Margaret Hellard with Myanmar Liver Foundation's Dr Khine Pyone Kyi at the 2017 World Hepatitis Summit
The 2017 World Hepatitis Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil has acknowledged that with perseverance, the World Health Organization (WHO) goals to eliminate hepatitis B and hepatitis C are achievable.
Burnet Institute Deputy Director (Programs), Professor Margaret Hellard was among 900 summit delegates representing WHO, civil society groups, patient organisations, policy makers, public health scientists, and funders from 90 countries.
“The summit brought together people from around the globe to discuss how we’re going to move forward in the elimination of both hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and how to reach the WHO elimination goals by 2030,” Professor Hellard said.
“Importantly the summit acknowledged the importance of civil society and government in this task, that there was a lot of work to be done, but that the targets are achievable.”
Professor Hellard said Egypt, which has the highest prevalence of hepatitis C globally, set the bar with a declaration from its Minister for Health that the country is aiming for hepatitis elimination by 2020.
“This was a significant announcement, and it means a significant ramping up of testing and treatment, but it really encourages all of us and challenges all countries to do the same,” Professor Hellard said.
“Another important resolution was to do with civil society and a declaration of the importance of the decriminalisation of drug use.
“While we have so many people who use drugs and inject drugs being incarcerated in many countries, we would be most unlikely to achieve the elimination goals.”
Professor Hellard explored collaborative projects with colleagues from Egypt, and Myanmar Liver Foundation’s Dr Khin Pyone Kyi with whom Burnet is collaborating on a hepatitis C community based test and treat project.
“A really important component is to think about our health systems structures and what needs to change within those to make it possible for people to have quality harm reduction, quality testing and quality treatment services,” Professor Hellard said.
“This means we have to think about moving services from large tertiary-type hospitals into the community and maintain high quality services that actually ensure we develop that capacity.”