Message from the Scientific Director: World Hepatitis Day - July 28, 2019
On this World Hepatitis Day, the CIHR- Institute of Infection and Immunity reaffirms its commitment to the World Health Organization’s global goal of eliminating hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. Worldwide, 325 million people live with viral hepatitis B and C, causing 1.4 million deaths a year. Hepatitis infection is preventable, treatable, and in the case of hepatitis C, curable, yet the global burden and associated health consequences of infection remain high. Over 80% of people living with hepatitis globally are lacking prevention, testing and treatment services. In Canada, 44% of the estimated 250,000 people living with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection. Furthermore, specific priority populations bear most of the burden of hepatitis, including those who are often socially disadvantaged and marginalized which reinforce health inequities and conditions of vulnerabilities to hepatitis disease. Research into best practices applicable to different priority populations to find the undiagnosed and linking them to care is critical to the goal of eliminating hepatitis.
There is no better time to accelerate our effort to eliminate Hepatitis than now. The Government of Canada recently released an Action Plan on STBBI, titled Accelerating Our Response: Government of Canada Five-Year Action Plan on Sexually Transmitted and Blood-Borne Infections. This Action Plan outlines concrete actions that the government will undertake to accelerate the pace of Canada’s efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat STBBI, and address barriers to care. Research efforts that enhance evidence based approaches is a key theme in this Action Plan. Since 2015, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and CIHR have also funded a National Hepatitis C Collaborative Network (CanHepC) that links over 100 researchers, trainees and knowledge-users in the field of Hepatitis C from across Canada dedicated to translational research on prevention, treatment and outcomes. Research efforts to develop new prevention methods, including a hepatitis C vaccine, and better implement existing solutions for prevention and diagnosis of hepatitis are gaining momentum in Canada and globally. The key to hepatitis elimination in Canada lies in reaching the undiagnosed and reducing the inequality in disease burden across priority populations most affected by high prevalence rates. This can only be achieved through further collaborative action between scientists, health professionals, communities and all levels of government across the country.
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