July 28, 2017 is World Hepatitis Day, one of only four disease-specific days recognized by the World Health Organization. Around the world and around the United States organizations and individuals come together on this day to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence change.
Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year – that’s as many as HIV, tuberculosis or malaria. Together, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.
In the United States, 850,000 to 2.2 million people are living with hepatitis B, and at least 3.5 million people are living with hepatitis C. Recent increases in hepatitis B and hepatitis C in the U.S. are associated with the opioid crisis and sharing of equipment for injection and, to a lesser extent, improved case detection.
Liver cancer is the only major cancer on the rise in the U.S. Hepatitis B and C drove the 28% increase in liver cancer in the U.S. between 2003-2012. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer and the leading indication for liver transplants in the U.S. In 2013, hepatitis C-associated deaths exceeded the combined number of deaths with 60 other infectious diseases as underlying causes.
Despite these dire statistics, there is great hope. There is an effective vaccine and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can be eliminated. A recent report from the National Academy of Science lays a roadmap for achieving this goal by the year 2030.
Greater awareness and greater access to preventive services, testing, care, and treatment are urgently needed, as is political commitment at the federal, state, and local levels. This year’s World Hepatitis Day theme is “Eliminate Hepatitis,” and it provides an opportunity to highlight the serious impact hepatitis B and hepatitis C have around the globe and in the United States and to join in the call for action to prevent deaths and stem the tide of new infections.
Please consider raising the profile of viral hepatitis in your community. Here are some ways to get involved:
- Learn more about World Hepatitis Day and about events in your area.
- Learn more about hepatitis B and hepatitis C and share this information with your friends and family.
- Get tested for hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Take this five-minute risk assessment and get a personalized report with testing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. If you need support related to hepatitis, reach out to 877‑HELP‑4‑HEP.
- Call your Senator and encourage them to vote NO on the motion to proceed and to reject any effort to repeal the health law, which would reduce the number of people with health coverage in the U.S. The lives of people at risk for and living with viral hepatitis, as well as millions of others, depend on adequate access to health coverage and health care.
- Sign the World Hepatitis Day Thunderclap: By joining the Thunderclap, a message will be shared via your Facebook or Twitter on 28 July and you will join the collective voice on World Hepatitis Day.
- #ShowYourFace to eliminate hepatitis and share on social media. #ShowYourFace is a personalized Polaroid photo campaign created by the World Hepatitis Alliance. It focuses on individual human faces to highlight that hepatitis is relevant to everyone, everywhere in the world and that helping to eliminate it is something we can all support. As an example, here is our Director of Federal & State Affairs, Emalie Huriaux, participating in the #ShowYourFace campaign.