In a recently held international conference in Manila, medical and public health experts discussed about various challenges that limit the progress in eradicating hepatitis.

The conference was organized from 18—22 February by the Asia Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver (APASL) and the Coalition for the Eradication of Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific (CEVHAP) that aimed at reviewing the set interim elimination targets set for the disease. Moreover, identify the major barriers in achieving the elimination targets and finding solutions for it.

Going by the noticed trend of WHO, hepatitis became the cause of 1.34 million deaths in 2015. As compared to the fatalities from TB and higher than those caused by HIV. Most of which were attributed to chronic liver disease and primary liver cancer. Another noteworthy factor is that 70 percent of the viral hepatitis deaths occur in Asia. Going by the global trends, almost 257 million people are living with Hepatitis B with highest records in China.

With the medical development in the past years, vaccination is well placed for hepatitis B but still to be developed for equally deadly hepatitis C. WHO’s Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis (2016-2021) has set its aim to limit new infections by 90 percent and reduce mortality rate caused by the disease by 65 percent, to achieve the long term objective of eradicating the disease by 2030.

As per the discussions in the conference, many countries are lagging behind in meeting the interim targets of 2020 set to fight the disease, the major reason identified of which is the prevalent stigma for hepatitis.

“They don’t want to be tested because they are scared. Those testing positive for hepatitis are likely to be denied employment or even education,” says Rosmawati Mohamed, a professor at the University of Malaya and CEVHAP co-chair.

CEVHAP is currently working with the governments in various countries to put in place policies for fighting major causes of the disease and laws that ensure that no discrimination takes place with the patients and they are able to lead a normal life.