ISLAMABAD - World Health Organization (WHO) has reiterated its commitment towards eliminating hepatitis from Pakistan.
In a message on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day 2023, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Pakistan, Dr Palitha Mahipala said, “Viral hepatitis affects 360 million people worldwide and claims 3,000 lives every day.”
He said that in 2015, the World Health Assembly adopted a strategy to eliminate hepatitis by 2030 through prevention, testing and treatment. Dr Palitha said, “World Hepatitis Day, observed on every 28th of July, serves as reflection on the achievements of our fight against viral hepatitis.”
“It is also an opportunity to address the gaps and needs to enhance our efforts in eliminating these diseases as a public health concern.”
He said that Pakistan is facing a considerably high disease burden due to viral Hepatitis B & C. Pakistan has the highest prevalence of Hepatitis C (7%) globally and has the highest number of people suffering from HCV, he added.
Dr Palitha said around 15 million people are estimated infected with Viral Hepatitis C in the country. Another 5 million are estimated infected with Viral Hepatitis B in the country.
He said unfortunately, our response to viral hepatitis has stagnated in recent years and added testing for viral hepatitis has not been scaled up as tests and treatment are considered expensive.
Dr Palitha said the theme of world hepatitis day this year ‘Hepatitis Medicines are Cheaper - Treat to Save Lives’ aims to raise awareness to scale treatment for people living with viral hepatitis.
He said that now the manufacturers have announced to lower down the price of WHO prequalified hepatitis B and C drugs in low-and middle-income countries.
This has been a concerted effort by partners to ensure affordability and accessibility to hepatitis treatment, he added.
Dr Palitha said these new drug prices will significantly reduce the cost of treatment to low and middle-income countries, and scale up hepatitis programs to meet growing demand, all towards eliminating hepatitis.
He said, “On this World Hepatitis Day, WHO calls on health authorities to scale-up viral hepatitis B & C testing and treatment, as an essential part of WHO vision of health for all by all.”
He said that the WHO and all stakeholders will ensure affordability and accessibility of medicines, testing and treatment to millions in low and middle-income countries. “This is indeed a major step towards elimination of hepatitis by 2030,” he added.