Media release from Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand
World health leaders are turning their attention to hepatitis after
New Zealand and 193 countries agreed to proactively address viral
The hepatitis resolution, which was unanimously
approved at the 2014 World Health Assembly, calls for every country to
adopt a national strategy to address viral hepatitis.
delighted the New Zealand government is committing themselves to
nationally address viral hepatitis,” said John Hornell, CEO of The
Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand. “We’ve worked in partnership with
successive governments for 30 years to address hepatitis B and we hope
the next step will be a national approach to hepatitis C. New Zealand
now has an opportunity to eradicate hepatitis C in our lifetime.”
hepatitis resolution is timely. On Tuesday 22 July, The Lancet
published the findings of the Global Burden of Disease Study,
highlighting the positive impact of co-ordinated national approaches.
The study found there was a vast improvement against the global burden
of HIV, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) when governments worldwide adopted
the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6. As a result, the number of
deaths from HIV reduced from 1.7 million in 2005 to around 1.3 million
in 2013. Viral hepatitis was not included in the MDG 6 and consequently
the deaths from viral hepatitis increased by 50 per cent to 1.5 million
people every year.
“The global community has worked extremely
hard to tackle HIV/AIDS. The result is a plummeting death toll. Viral
hepatitis in contrast has spiralled into a global epidemic,” said
Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA), in a WHA
“As I’ve said before, too many lives are lost
prematurely to this manageable chronic disease. If people are diagnosed
early, regularly monitored, and provided appropriate education and in
some cases treatment, outcomes would be different,” said Mr Hornell. “A
key step to addressing viral hepatitis is through testing and early
diagnosis. This was recognised at the World Health Assembly, and this is
our focus for our World Hepatitis Day campaign.”
At the start of
the month, The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand launched its ‘Can
you say yes’ campaign, as part of a build-up to World Hepatitis Day on
28 July. Following on from its success in 2013, risk factors of
hepatitis B and C have been promoted across the North Island and those
at risk are encouraged to speak to their doctor or contact The Hepatitis
Foundation of New Zealand for a free test. Promotion of World Hepatitis
Day in the South Island is covered by another organisation.
150,000 New Zealanders live with chronic hepatitis B or C, and most are
unaware they have it. Viral hepatitis is the main cause of liver cancer
and liver transplantation in New Zealand, however, in most cases, liver
cancer is preventable if detected early.
People at risk of
hepatitis B are those who are over 25 and of Māori, Pacific Island, or
Asian ethnicity. Also at risk are people whose mother or close family
has hepatitis B, or if they live with someone who has hepatitis B.
hepatitis C, those at risk are people who have ever injected drugs,
ever received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment, had
medical attention overseas or immigrated from a high risk country, had a
blood transfusion prior to 1992, have ever been in prison, or were born
to a mother with hepatitis C.
The Hepatitis Foundation of New
Zealand is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve health
outcomes for people living with chronic hepatitis B or C in New Zealand.
They encourage anyone living with chronic hepatitis B or C to enrol
with the Foundation for education, support and routine testing. Over
17,500 New Zealanders with chronic hepatitis B or C are enrolled in the
programme, with an aim to increase to 35,000 in the next five years.
Monday 28 July, people from all over the globe will come together to
celebrate and embrace World Hepatitis Day. This day is an opportunity
for all New Zealanders to learn about hepatitis and an opportunity for
people to get tested if they are, or have been, at risk.
For more information, call 0800 33 20 10 or visit www.hepatitisfoundation.org.nz.
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