World Hepatitis Summit 2022 to support healthcare workers

The World Hepatitis Summit 2022 calls to prevent viral hepatitis as cases soar in children and healthcare workers struggle with the stigma

The World Hepatitis Summit 2022 begins this week, to encourage action on eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030. Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, caused by a virus.

In 2016, the World Health Assembly agreed to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. Of course, this ambition has been sidetracked by COVID-19, but the number of people receiving treatment for hepatitis C has increased. In recent months, there has been a rise in unexplained hepatitis in children across 34 countries.

 

Viral hepatitis kills one person every 30 seconds, but stigma prevents access to healthcare

The World Hepatitis Summit 2022 will run from 7th - 10th June and take place in Geneva, to rally support for the fight against viral hepatitis, arranged by the World Hepatitis Alliance. The summit will include a panel discussion featuring:

  • Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation
  • Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand
  • Professor Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt’s acting Health Minister

There are five different hepatitis viruses - hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. 

There is a vaccine and effective treatment for hepatitis B as well as a cure for hepatitis C, but stigma and discrimination continue to stop people accessing healthcare. 

  • 354mn people globally live with one kind of hepatitis 
  • Every 30 seconds, one person dies from viral hepatitis 
  • That’s more than one million deaths every year – a higher toll than HIV and malaria put together

The World Hepatitis Alliance supports patients and healthcare workers 

The World Hepatitis Alliance is a non-governmental organisation, led by patients from over 100 countries. The group raises awareness of viral hepatitis and strives to create a world free from viral hepatitis. 

Cary James, Chief Executive at The World Hepatitis Alliance, is keen to address the stigma around hepatitis, especially in healthcare workers. 

"Along with providing care to those with hepatitis, healthcare workers in developing countries face an added burden of stigma and discrimination associated with hepatitis B. This is largely due to the false belief that hepatitis B is contagious through casual contact, such as touching hands. In addition, communities can believe in cultural superstition and receive misinformation. 

"The impact of these misconceptions on the lives of people living with hepatitis B can be immense. People living with hepatitis B report being stopped from sharing utensils with others, denied participation in group activities and even refused tenancy in student accommodation.

"In the United States, although there have been no hepatitis B transmissions recorded by a hepatitis B positive healthcare provider since 1994, it was only in 2012 that the CDC updated its guidance, reaffirming that a positive hepatitis B status should not disqualify anyone from studying or practicing medicine. Progress in guidance from the CDC, means that healthcare workers were more informed by this point and able to address stigma and discrimination amongst their professional community.

"In a time of shortages in healthcare workers and supply chain issues, discrimination and stigma against healthcare workers is only aggravating the problem by barring talented people from their work."

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