The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is urging countries in the Americas to take action to increase access to diagnosis and treatment for hepatitis B and C. With over 10 million people affected by hepatitis in the region, it is crucial to tackle this public health issue to prevent serious disease and death.
According to PAHO, hepatitis can be effectively controlled with medicines if it is detected in time. However, the organization emphasizes that currently, only 18% of individuals with hepatitis B and 22% with hepatitis C in the Americas are aware of their condition. Even more concerning is the fact that only 3% of those with hepatitis B and 18% with hepatitis C are receiving treatment.
The primary reason behind these low treatment rates is the lack of investment in diagnostics and hepatitis medicines. This issue needs to be addressed urgently in order to save lives. PAHO Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, highlights the importance of testing and treatment services in preventing deaths from hepatitis-related liver cancer or cirrhosis.
One barrier to treatment is the perception that hepatitis medicines are prohibitively expensive. However, the availability of generics has significantly reduced the cost over the past decade. PAHO provides affordable options for countries in the region to purchase hepatitis medicines through the Regional Revolving Funds, which aim to scale up treatment access.
World Hepatitis Day, observed annually, serves as a reminder of the progress made and the opportunities to eliminate the disease as a public health concern. This year’s theme, ‘One life, One liver,’ emphasizes the importance of liver health and knowing one’s hepatitis status.
PAHO’s Regional Revolving Funds have played a crucial role in facilitating the procurement of vaccines, diagnostic tests, and treatment for hepatitis in the region over the past five years.
Increased access to diagnosis and treatment for hepatitis B and C is essential to save lives and prevent the spread of the disease. Countries in the Americas must prioritize investment in diagnostics and medicines to effectively control hepatitis and reduce its impact on public health. Through PAHO’s Regional Revolving Funds, affordable options are available to help countries scale up treatment access. World Hepatitis Day serves as a reminder of the progress made and the work that still needs to be done to eliminate hepatitis as a public health concern.