Vienna, 28 July 2015 - Hepatitis is preventable and some forms are curable. Despite this truth, the disease continues to spread and is responsible for the deaths and suffering of millions around the world.
UNODC estimates that some 6.3 million people, or every second person who injects drugs, is living with hepatitis C. Efforts against hepatitis C are closely linked to HIV. Both are blood-borne infections that can be transmitted through unsafe injecting practices.
Hepatitis C and HIV infections, however, are not death sentences; they are preventable and treatable. To achieve these twin goals, people who inject drugs desperately need access to evidence-based prevention, testing and treatment services. But access is often low and sometimes non-existent, particularly in prisons and other enclosed environments.
The dignity of individuals living with hepatitis C and HIV must be safeguarded at all times. It is essential that individuals are treated equally as those suffering other medical conditions. No one facing these diseases should be left behind without access to life-saving medicines.
People who use drugs should not be kept away from hepatitis or HIV services by fear of reprisals due to their drug use. They must be encouraged to come forward and to seek evidence-based prevention, testing and treatment. Any action that inhibits people from doing so is deeply counterproductive and will only encourage the spread of these infectious diseases and increase pressure on already overburdened health services.
In support of these approaches, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNODC and UNAIDS recommend the implementation of the nine HIV interventions that can also help prevent the spread of hepatitis C among people who inject drugs.
Raising awareness and understanding of hepatitis C is vital to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. Gender sensitive and youth friendly services must also be developed to ensure that women and young people are aware of the risks, as well as their prevention, and can access services tailored to their needs.
On World Hepatitis Day, UNODC stresses that it will continue to work closely with its partners, including civil society, to do everything possible to prevent the spread of hepatitis C among people who use drugs and those living in prisons.
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