World Hepatitis Summit underway.

Source: World Hepatitis Alliance

More than 900 delegates have descended on Sao Paulo for this year’s World Hepatitis Summit, each sharing a common goal: the elimination of viral hepatitis. The Summit, a joint initiative between the World Hepatitis Alliance, World Health Organization and the Brazilian Government, has attracted patients, policy makers, medical specialists and civil society representatives from 110 countries globally.

In today’s opening session, delegates gathered for a welcome address from WHA CEO Raquel Peck and other guest speakers, before the floor was handed to the Honourable Ricardo Barros, Minister of Health for Brazil. Mr Barros told delegates of the host nation’s ambitious plans to eliminate hepatitis by 2030.

Having already provided free vaccination against hepatitis B to all Brazilians regardless of age, Mr Barros announced that Brazil would be aiming to treat and cure all of the estimated 660,000 Brazilians thought to be infected with hepatitis C.

He ended by highlighting that Brazil was one of the first nations to begin the fight against viral hepatitis, being a key player in various WHO resolutions on the disease and the creation of World Hepatitis Day. He concluded: “I hope that this event will be a big step forward in the treatment of viral hepatitis around the world.” 

The session was closely followed by the “Making the Elimination of Viral Hepatitis a Reality”, which was co-chaired by Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of the HIV/Hepatitis Department of the World Health Organization and Raquel Peck, CEO of the World Hepatitis Alliance. Showing truly global representation, 11 ministerial representatives (Brazil, China, Egypt, Georgia, Lesotho, Malta, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Uganda plus a video from Australia) took to the stage to share their successes in implementing initiatives to help reach elimination by 2030. Bollywood star and WHO SEARO Goodwill Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan also reiterated his support and commitment to lead the fight to eliminate viral hepatitis. This show of commitment was bolstered by the launch of the NOhep Visionaries Programme, which highlighted six countries (Brazil, Egypt, Mongolia, Bangladesh, The Gambia and Georgia) who are spearheading the elimination of viral hepatitis in their region.

The “Strategic Information for Focused Action” session provided an overview of the current progress towards elimination, announcing that 82 countries now have viral hepatitis plans in place but highlighting that obstacles to elimination still exist. Underscoring the session was the importance of the patient voice and the critical role people living with viral hepatitis can play in breaking down barriers, finding the undiagnosed and achieving the elimination of viral hepatitis.

“If we had 300 million people demanding action, we would get it" urged Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

Overall, the main output of the session was that there is an urgent need for investment in strategic information systems.

Attendees spent the afternoon listening and exchanging best practices at various workshops on HCV elimination in Georgia, how to develop a national plan on viral hepatitis, how to develop an investment case and developing successful awareness campaigns.

The day finished with side meetings on Unitaid's role in the global hepatitis C response and policy as a tool for elimination.