28 July 2017
Hepatitis C has a catastrophic impact on people's lives. According to UNODC's World Drug Report, of the 12 million people injecting drugs globally, 6.1 million are living with the terrible effects of hepatitis C.
There is positive news. Advances in medicine mean there are effective treatments for this disease; including from World Health Organization (WHO), which has just recently pre-qualified the first generic hepatitis C medicine. This will hopefully ensure that many more people receive the benefits of medicine and science.
We need to remove barriers to expand hepatitis B and C prevention, testing and treatment to everyone. People in prisons should be able to access hepatitis prevention and treatment services that are equal to those offered in communities. Such efforts will help reduce the spread of hepatitis C in prison populations, but also in the wider community.
Services for people who inject drugs need to be scaled up in line with the WHO/UNODC/UNAIDS comprehensive package. Evidence-based HIV/Hepatitis prevention and treatment services should be implemented, alongside policies that address stigma and discrimination. Law enforcement needs must be balanced with fundamental public health concerns and countries should provide alternatives to incarceration and to punishment for people who use drugs.
Last year's UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem stressed the need to end AIDS, as well as to combat communicable diseases such as hepatitis by 2030. This follows the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and it was reinforced by the agreement at the UN General Assembly in 2016 to deliver, before 2020, a 30 per cent reduction in new cases of chronic viral hepatitis B and C among those who use drugs.
Hepatitis C is preventable and curable. On World Hepatitis Day, let us work together to end the suffering and misery caused by this terrible disease.
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