The elimination of viral hepatitis B and C is amongst the stated goals of the UN and the WHO. However, Europe is yet to make significant progress.
These viruses affect 28 million people in the WHO Europe region, most of whom are living without visible symptoms for decades before disease progressioni. As many as 171,000 deathsii annually in the WHO Europe region are caused by two infections – hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus. Experts warn that the number of individuals affected will continue to increase in many countries across Europe over the next 15 yearsiii unless action is taken to prevent, detect, and cure these diseases.
Countries must move to prevent infection, improve diagnosis across the spectrum of risk groups and ensure that direct acting antiviral treatment is affordable and accessible. Spending money today to control viral hepatitis will reduce costs later from its complications.iv
What to do
Effective tools exist today. Hepatitis B is preventable through a vaccine, and can be controlled with treatment. Although there is still no vaccine, hepatitis C is now curable with a short course of highly effective and safe medicine. Significant progress towards eliminating both diseases as public health threats in European countries is possible, provided decisive action is taken to expand surveillance, prevention, testing, treatment and care.
The members of the ACHIEVE (Associations Collaborating on Hepatitis to Immunise and Eliminate the Viruses in Europe) coalition, representing patients and community, clinicians and researchers, have therefore decided to collaborate to advance the fight against these diseases in line with the WHO Global Health Sector Strategy, the WHO Europe Action Plan and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.v The ACHIEVE coalition includes the following organisations: The European Liver Patients’ Association (ELPA), the Viral Hepatitis Prevention Board, Hepatitis B and C Public Policy Association, EASL International Liver Foundation, European Aids Treatment Group (EATG), Correlation Network, the World Hepatitis Alliance and the Barcelona Institue for Global Health (ISGlobal). It is enabled by the support of Abbott, CEPHEID, Gilead Sciences and MSD.