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500 million people await World Health Assembly decision on viral hepatitis

17 May, 2010  

The World Hepatitis Alliance today called on health ministers and governments to support the adoption of an urgently needed World Health Organization (WHO) resolution on viral hepatitis,being debated during the 63rd World Health Assembly, starting in Geneva today. 
Hundreds of patient groups await the World Health Assembly’s decision as they prepare to mark the third annual World Hepatitis Day on 19 May. If adopted, the resolution would provide global endorsement of World Hepatitis Day as the primary focus for national and international awareness-raising efforts.  Recently published research from the World Hepatitis Alliance shows that only a minority of governments currently fund hepatitis B and C awareness activities and much more needs to be done to tackle two diseases that kill one million people a year.
“Despite the huge disease burden and death toll, viral hepatitis has never before been comprehensively addressed by the global community” commented Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

“The World Health Assembly, taking place this week, is an important opportunity and on behalf of every single man, woman and child who has had their lives torn apart by these devastating diseases I urge governments of the world to fully support the WHO resolution.”
Co-sponsored by Brazil, Indonesia and Colombia and agreed by the WHO Executive Board, the resolution recognises the impact of the diseases globally and proposes a robust framework for international action to improve awareness, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of both hepatitis B and C. 
“Much more can be done to reduce the devastating effects of viral hepatitis B and C worldwide. A unified approach by world governments is the most effective way to deliver viral hepatitis prevention and control programmes” explained Dr Michael Houghton, co-discoverer of the hepatitis C virus and member of the World Hepatitis Alliance Public Health Panel.

“A positive outcome from the World Health Assembly this week would be a major milestone and has the very real potential to save millions of lives.”
The consideration of the resolution comes against the background of a new report, “Viral Hepatitis: Global Policy”, published one month ago by the World Hepatitis Alliance. Commissioned by the WHO, this unprecedented research highlights that despite good examples of what can be achieved in preventing and controlling viral hepatitis, there is enormous disparity across the world with many countries acknowledging that existing policies need strengthening. It does, however, also reveal a clear consensus for action, with the vast majority of countries agreeing that viral hepatitis is an urgent public health issue and requesting leadership from the WHO in tackling it.

World Hepatitis Alliance