Viet Nam captures global momentum on viral hepatitis

WHO media release

World Hepatitis Day 2014 poster
World Hepatitis Alliance

On World Hepatitis Day, 28 July, WHO welcomes new progress in tackling one of the world’s most serious diseases. Viral hepatitis – a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E – affects millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic liver disease and killing close to 1.4 million people every year.

New global momentum

In May 2014, at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, health ministers from 194 countries, including Viet Nam, endorsed a resolution to intensify global efforts to prevent, diagnose, and treat viral hepatitis. The resolution emphasizes the importance of having comprehensive national plans to tackle hepatitis - designed to meet the needs of a country, using the resources available. The World Health Assembly resolution also highlights the need to invest in effective prevention strategies. These include expanding immunization programmes, comprehensive harm reduction programmes for people who inject drugs, and assuring access to safe injections and blood transfusions.

Today, most people with hepatitis do not know they are infected, as often symptoms only appear decades later after serious liver disease sets in. Therefore, the Member States also agreed to expand efforts to test and diagnose hepatitis. The resolution also recognizes the great potential of new medicines and treatment approaches for chronic hepatitis C and hepatitis B infection, calling for strategies to increase access to affordable, quality hepatitis medicines.

One of the most significant public health developments over the past year has been the huge advances in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. In April this year WHO released new guidelines for the screening, care and treatment of people with hepatitis C infection. New drugs have the potential to transform hepatitis C treatment, with safe and simple treatments resulting in cure rates of over 90%.

Viet Nam - Progress and way forward

In accordance with this year’s World Health Assembly resolution on hepatitis, the Ministry of Health of Viet Nam has led the process to develop the first comprehensive National Action Plan for prevention and control of viral hepatitis. The action plan will guide national response efforts to strengthen surveillance, prevent transmission, and increase access to diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis in Viet Nam.

Immunization is the simplest and most effective way of preventing the spread of hepatitis B. In Viet Nam, routine immunization for hepatitis B has been implemented for the past ten years, resulting in a reduction of hepatitis B infection in children aged five in Viet Nam to approximately two percent. WHO continues to support the Ministry of Health of Viet Nam to increase coverage of hepatitis B vaccination among infants, including giving the vaccine to newly born babies within 24 hours of birth, and ensuring completion of the subsequent three injections.

Treatment for chronic hepatitis B and C is available in a limited number of centres in Viet Nam, but the hepatitis medicines must become more accessible and affordable.

"We commend Viet Nam’s efforts in development of the national action plan on viral hepatitis.” says Mr Jeffery Kobza, Acting WHO Representative to Viet Nam. “Given that a large number of people in Viet Nam are affected by hepatitis viruses, especially hepatitis B and C, we need to deliver concerted actions, including vaccination, prevention, testing and treatment.”

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Tran Thi Loan
Tel: 84-4-943 3734/5/6 (ext. 83886)
Mobile: 0915 413 814
Email: media.vtn@wpro.who.int

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