Three countries, three conference rooms, one subject: Hepatitis B Cure and Hepatitis C Eradication. More than sixty international experts from this regional network for dealing with chronic hepatitis met during the Mekong Hepatitis Symposium to make progress on discussions and decision-making on this major public health concern in the Greater Mekong Basin, a region at the centre of major outbreaks of these infections worldwide.
The objective of this symposium was to continue the discussions that had begun during previous editions and to benefit from the sharing of experiences and comparing of data between the various experts. Leading institutions including Inserm, the Lyon Cancer Research Centre, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), the University of Chiang Mai, the University of Sorbonne Paris Nord, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), le Center of Infectiology Lao Christophe Mérieux of the Ministry of Health for Laos and representatives of the Ministries of Health for Cambodia and Thailand and of the Mérieux Foundation, presented their commitments and progress made in dealing with hepatitis, as part of the World Health Organisation’s global vision for eliminating hepatitis by 2030.
The event was organised in four sessions, divided into presentations by experts:
- Session 1: Hepatitis B care innovations and perinatal transmission of the hepatitis B virus (HBV)
- Session 2: Eradicating the plague of the hepatitis C virus (HCV)
- Session 3: Controlling Viral Hepatocellular Carcinoma
- Session 4: Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Viral hepatitis B and C: serious threats to public health
Viral hepatitis B and C affect more than 320 million worldwide (250 million for hepatitis B and 71 million for hepatitis C), causing 1.4 million deaths per year*. Hepatitis has become the leading fatal infectious disease, ahead of tuberculosis, HIV and malaria.
Hepatitis B and C are responsible for more than 80% of hepatocellular carcinomas (primary liver cancer) worldwide, particularly in Asia and Africa. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the fastest growing type of cancer in the world.
Hepatitis is avoidable, treatable and, in the case of hepatitis C, curable. However, more than 80% of people suffering from hepatitis do not benefit from prevention, testing and treatment services. One of the greatest paradoxes surrounding hepatitis at present is that the cost of treatment has been significantly reduced in developing countries thanks to generics, so much so that it is now the cost of diagnosis that is becoming a limiting factor.
In 2011, the WHO set up a global programme for eliminating hepatitis by 2030, following a decision made by the World Health Assembly. The programme has been incorporated within the HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases group, in order to intensify efforts to deal with viral hepatitis amongst people living with HIV.