As part of the Global Fund Replenishment Conference, leading experts discussed how a more collaborative approach toward HIV and hepatitis elimination can help better utilize health resources and achieve optimal health outcomes.
Viral hepatitis is a leading cause of death globally, killing more than 1.4 million people each year. By 2040, deaths from hepatitis will exceed that of HIV, TB and malaria combined if the status quo persists.
During the session, it was concluded that effective global health programs should utilize a people-centered, rather than disease-centered approach and that elimination of viral hepatitis should be part of Universal Health Coverage. Currently, testing and treatment for hepatitis is affordable and high impact. Recommendations to the Global Fund included: supporting elimination goals for HCV and HBV among people with TB and people living with HIV; ensuring that services funded by the Global Fund provide prevention and treatment for HIV, TB and hepatitis; and utilizing Global Fund procurement systems to reduce the commodity price for hepatitis diagnostics and treatment.
On World Hepatitis Day, the Government of Pakistan announced a new ambitious plan by the Prime Minister to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. The plan was unveiled by Dr Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, and aims to scale up hepatitis prevention, testing and treatment services by screening up to 140 million people in Pakistan for viral hepatitis and providing free medical treatment for those infected. Approximately, 15 million people are living with hepatitis B and C in Pakistan and more than 20,000 people die annually of hepatitis-related causes.
New initiatives were also announced for injection safety, safe blood transfusion and national infection control guidelines. The Government of Pakistan has also been able to procure hepatitis C treatment at low prices. Providing treatment to all those currently diagnosed with hepatitis C could reduce healthcare costs in Pakistan within three years. It is estimated that 16 million people in Pakistan will need antivirals.
Pakistan’s President Alvi noted, “The plan is a step forward toward improving healthcare in the country and achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in the long run.”