Every year, the World Hepatitis Day campaign makes an incredible impact by raising awareness of hepatitis and the desperate need to get more people tested. The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Hep Can’t Wait!’, intended to stress the urgency of the problem, globally.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. In addition to this, 200 million+ people are living with the hepatitis B virus.
These numbers equate to a person dying every 30 seconds from a hepatitis-related illness - but it doesn’t have to be this way.
What is hepatitis?
The first step to a Hep-free world is educating as many people as possible about the virus. Here’s a description of hepatitis and a breakdown of its types, from the World Hepatitis Alliance:
‘Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These five types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread.
Chronic hepatitis B and C are life-threatening infectious diseases that cause serious liver damage, cancer, and premature death.’
Through raising awareness and educating the general public, we can encourage ‘high risk’ people to get tested and treat those carrying the blood-borne virus. More importantly, we can use campaign materials to put pressure on global decision-makers to prioritise eliminating hepatitis once and for all.
How is hepatitis contracted?
Knowing how these viruses are contracted gives people a better understanding of how to avoid them, and whether there is a chance they might already be infected. The different types are most commonly transmitted via these methods:
Consuming food and drink contaminated with faeces of an infected person. (Common in countries with poor sanitation).
From the blood of an infected person, commonly spread from infected pregnant women to their babies.
Unprotected sex and injecting drugs.
Through the sharing of needles.
Reuse or inadequate sterilization of medical equipment.
From a pregnant woman to her unborn child.
Sexual practices that lead to exposure to blood.
Hepatitis D (This can only be contracted by someone who has the Hepatitis B virus):
Through blood-blood contact or sexual contact.
The consumption of raw or undercooked meats and fish and unsanitized food and drink.
Is Hepatitis curable?
Despite the fact that all types of the virus are treatable, and Hepatitis A and C are 100% curable, hundreds of millions of infected people around the world continue to suffer, and in the worst cases, lose their lives.
Hep C is the most chronic form of the virus, and unfortunately, most of those who are infected do not present with symptoms for many years post contraction. Hence, the key to curing more cases of chronic Hepatitis infections is seeing as many high-risk individuals as possible getting tested.
That’s where crucial campaigns like this one come in.
We can use our collective voice to demand more action from global decision-makers and put a stop to the neglect of the worldwide hepatitis crisis.
Hep Can’t Wait!
The main messages of this years' awareness campaign are these:
People living with viral hepatitis unaware can’t wait for testing
People living with hepatitis can’t wait for life-saving treatments
Expectant mothers can’t wait for hepatitis screening and treatment
Newborn babies can’t wait for birth dose vaccination
People affected by hepatitis can’t wait to end stigma and discrimination
Community organisations can’t wait for greater investment
Decision-makers can’t wait and must act now to make hepatitis elimination a reality through political will and funding.
These messages speak loud about the urgency of the hepatitis epidemic, and especially of the chronic Hep C problem that continues to claim millions of lives each year, despite us having the tools to eradicate these viruses by 2030.
The ticking clock motif featured across the World Hepatitis Day campaign resources is intended to put pressure on global decision-makers. It suggests that time is running out for many vulnerable and ‘at-risk’ individuals, stressing the urgent need for further action.
What can I do to help?
Individually, we can all do our bit to spread awareness of hepatitis. But together, our collective voice can force the hand of those who have the power to make a difference and get more people tested and treated, saving as many lives as possible.
Here’s what you can do:
Step 2: Repeat step 1 for the NHS APA’s HepCULater campaign.
Step 3: Educate the people around you about the hepatitis viruses, and encourage anyone you know who might be at risk to get tested.
Let’s step towards a hep free world, together.