December 1, 2016
In honor of World Hepatitis Day, Sunday July 28th, Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World), INPUD, TAG, APN+, ITPC and Act-up-Basel have launched a petition calling on Dr. Margaret Chan, General Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) to act urgently to improve universal access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis C (HCV). Thousands of people from 86 different countries have already signed the petition.
HCV is a major public health threat all over the world. Since 2010, more than one million people have died from Hepatitis C even though it is curable. An estimated 185 million people are infected with HCV and there are 3-4 million new cases each year. Because HCV is transmittable by blood, the virus affects the majority of intravenous drug users (out of 16 million, more than 10 million are infected). The lack of access to sterile injection materials continues to fuel the epidemic. Sharing contaminated needles causes 90% of new HCV cases.
New treatments recently discovered for Hepatitis C have cure rates of up to 100%, demonstrating that Hepatitis C has the potential to be eradicated from the planet. Yet, at the global level, only minimal amounts of people with the virus have access to treatment or have the necessary information and tools to avoid transmission. The epidemic continues to spread.
The WHO has called Hepatitis C the “viral time bomb”, but has not done anything significant to address this global health crisis. Access to prevention tools, diagnosis and treatment is always extremely limited, particularly for intravenous drug users, who are largely affected by HCV. The lack of access is a failure in global health policy, and the WHO plays a large role.
Therefore, on World Hepatitis Day, we ask Dr. Chan to show real leadership by mobilizing political will and the necessary resources to combat the global epidemic of Hepatitis C.
The WHO must act to improve access to universal HCV diagnosis and treatment by: