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Global call to tackle hidden epidemic – chronic viral hepatitis B & C

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The World Hepatitis Alliance has called on governments around the world to drive improvements in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and support for the one in 12 people worldwide infected with either chronic viral hepatitis B or C.Helen Tyrrell, CEO of Hepatitis Australia and founding member of the World Hepatitis Alliance says “The World Health Organization has estimated that over 350 million people on the planet are living with chronic viral hepatitis B and more than 170 million are living with chronic hepatitis C but there is an astonishing lack of awareness, and in some countries, political will to tackle these diseases.“Many experts refer to viral hepatitis as a hidden epidemic; our aim is to make sure it does not become a forgotten epidemic.”

Marking the first ever international World Hepatitis Day, the World Hepatitis Alliance today launched “The Hepatitis Atlas: Completing the Data Map” – a resource designed to become the first global public compendium of statistics and information relating to chronic viral hepatitis B and C. The Hepatitis Atlas has been launched as a result of the shocking lack of up-to-date global statistics relating to the two viruses.

Helen Tyrrell, CEO of Hepatitis Australia, said the current lack of data available globally means that many governments are simply working in the dark.

”There is an urgent need to ensure chronic viral hepatitis B and C are high up on healthcare agendas both in Australia and around the globe. Taking action to curb hepatitis B and hepatitis C now rather than later has economic benefits, lessens the burden on our health system and is the most socially responsible course of action” said Ms. Tyrrell.

Hepatitis Australia has joined its World Hepatitis Alliance colleagues in asking the Australian Government to sign up to 12 Asks for 2012 aimed at combating chronic viral hepatitis B and C. The 12 Asks are a series of requests for commitment from the Government to recognise the significant impact of the disease and in Australia and the importance of adopting measures that address the issue from a public health perspective.

In Australia, it is estimated 90,000 to 160,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis B, and 200,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis C. These numbers are growing annually.

“The challenge for viral hepatitis is to make healthcare authorities and policy makers aware that this disease, if not tackled today, will be a major burden in the next 20 years as today’s patients will develop liver cancer. It is better to act today than be unable to react tomorrow,” says Professor Greg Dore, Head of the Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program, National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of New South Wales, and one of 12 members of the World Hepatitis Alliance Public Health Panel.

Professor Dore added, “Increased awareness and understanding of the public health impact of chronic viral hepatitis is required to mobilise action on proven prevention and care strategies. Awareness raising will promote advocacy, improve global funding, and reduce the stigma and discrimination that affect many people with chronic viral hepatitis.”

Numerous education and awareness activities will be held around the nation aimed at increasing the knowledge and understanding of health care professionals, community workers, Aboriginal health care workers, policy makers and government.

Click here to access a fact sheet on hepatitis B and C. The fact sheet includes information on awareness initiatives and major support organisations as well as issues faced by people living with hepatitis, such as stigmas, discrimination and access to treatment.

Click here to access the full version of this press release produced by the World Hepatitis Alliance and Hepatitis Australia.


  1. World Hepatitis Alliance and Hepatitis Australia. Press Release: World hepatitis alliance calls on governments to take urgent action to tackle chronic viral hepatitis B & C epidemic. May 19 2008 
  2. World Health Organization. Hepatitis B Fact Sheet: (accessed 1 May, 2008)
  3. Initiative for Vaccine Research, Viral Cancers, Hepatitis C. World Health Organization, 2006. (accessed 1 May, 2008)
  4. Hepatitis in Australia: Responding to a diverse epidemic: (accessed 1 May, 2008)
  5. HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis & sexually Transmissible Infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report$file/ASR2007.PDF (accessed 1 May, 2008)
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Posted On: 16 May, 2008
Modified On: 19 March, 2014


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