July 27, 2011

World Hepatitis Alliance Warns that Stigma is a Major Threat to New Initiative Against Hepatitis Epidemic

GENEVA, July 27, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

              Patient community calls on governments to do more to reduce
      stigma as World Hepatitis Day receives official WHO endorsement for the
                                     first time

On World Hepatitis Day the World Hepatitis Alliance is warning
governments that, unless they also tackle stigma and discrimination,
important new action to improve and save millions of lives will be wasted.

The warning from the patient community comes one year after the
agreement of an historic World Health Organization (WHO) resolution, which
for the first time described what is expected of governments to deliver
improvements in awareness, surveillance, prevention, diagnosis and treatment
of viral hepatitis. The resolution was passed just weeks after the Alliance
published research that found only a few - less than one third - of
governments funded action to reduce the stigmatisation of, and
discrimination against, people living with hepatitis B or C[1].

"Viral hepatitis is a global epidemic. The decision of the 193 countries
of the WHO to adopt a resolution last year was the first step in tackling
it, but we have a long way to go" said Charles Gore, President of the
Alliance. "Right now the resolution is just a piece of paper. The challenge
for governments is to action it, and that will be immeasurably harder if we
don't at the same time vigorously confront stigma."

500 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B and C worldwide
but, despite the huge burden, there is widespread ignorance of the diseases.
This ignorance leads people to assume they are not at risk; it prevents
people coming forward for testing and treatment; it stops people paying
attention to awareness messages and so increases the risk of infection as
people are unaware of the major routes of transmission; and it reinforces

The theme for this first official WHO-sponsored World Hepatitis Day is
'Hepatitis affects everyone, everywhere. Know it. Confront it', highlighting
the huge reach of this epidemic, the importance of getting informed and the
need to use that information to tackle the stigma that has kept this
epidemic so silent.

In support of efforts to combat stigmathe Alliance is launching an
interactive 'wall' of personal stories to encourage people across the world
to speak out about their experiences. By describing the reality of
hepatitis, patients and those affected by this disease can radically change
the way it is perceived, reinforcing the need for a non-judgemental,
co-ordinated global approach that will dramatically improve prevention and
rapidly decrease the number of needless deaths.

"The initiative for this event originated with civil society activists,
including the World Hepatitis Alliance and patient groups" commented Dr
Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO. "They perceived a great need to
increase awareness of viral hepatitis, the diseases it causes, and the
discrimination often faced by patients. They wanted to see action against
these diseases on several fronts. I agree entirely with these objectives."

WHO Endorsement of World Hepatitis Day

World Hepatitis Day is the principal hepatitis awareness event on the
global healthcare calendar and became an official WHO day in 2010 with the
passing of World Health Assembly resolution WHA63.18. The WHO is now working
with the Alliance as a collaborating partner on World Hepatitis Day 2011 and
in recognition of the birthday of Professor Baruch Blumberg, who won the
Nobel Prize for discovering the hepatitis B virus, WHO decided that World
Hepatitis Day should take place on 28 July. Sadly Professor Blumberg died in
April 2011, and this will add further poignancy to the date this year.

Did You Know?

        - Approximately 500 million people worldwide are infected with
          hepatitis B or C[2]
        - This is over 15 times the number infected with HIV/AIDS[3]
        - Between them hepatitis B and C kill one million people a year[2]
        - Less than one third (32%) of governments report funding action
          to reduce the stigmatisation of, and discrimination against, people
          living with hepatitis B or C[1]
        - 81% of low income country governments have not funded any
          awareness work and 85% have not acted to reduce stigma[1]
        - One in three people on the planet has been exposed to either or
          both viruses

World Hepatitis Alliance

The World Hepatitis Alliance provides global leadership and supports
action that will halt the death toll and improve the lives of people living
with chronic viral hepatitis B and C. Through better awareness, prevention,
care, support and access to treatment, our ultimate goal is to work with
governments to eradicate these diseases from the planet.

The World Hepatitis Alliance is a Non-Governmental Organisation
representing more than 280 hepatitis B and C patient groups from around the
world. The World Hepatitis Alliance is governed by a board consisting
entirely of hepatitis B or C patients and elected by patient groups from the
six WHO world regions: Africa, the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe,
South-East Asia and Western Pacific. For further information visit:

World Hepatitis Alliance - Seeking a world without viral hepatitis B and

World Hepatitis Day

The fourth annual World Hepatitis Day will take place on Thursday 28th
July 2011, as part of an ongoing campaign launched by the World Hepatitis
Alliance in 2008. This is the first year that the WHO has endorsed World
Hepatitis Day.

The 2011 theme for World Hepatitis Day is 'This is hepatitis... Know it.
Confront it. Hepatitis affects everyone, everywhere.' This theme complements
'Am I Number 12?' which remains the principle awareness-raising campaign of
the World Hepatitis Alliance and has been a central component of the World
Hepatitis Day movement since its launch. This inclusive theme emphasises the
scale of viral hepatitis (1 in 12 of the global population is chronically
infected with hepatitis B or C) and helps combat the stigma often associated
with hepatitis B and C by conveying the fact that these viruses do not


[1] Viral Hepatitis: Global Policy. World Hepatitis Alliance in
conjunction with the World Health Organization:
(accessed 18 July, 2011)

[2] World Health Organization. Global Alert and Response (GAR)
(accessed 18 July, 2011)

[3]World Health Organization. Global summary of the AIDS epidemic.
(accessed 18 July, 2011)

        Raquel Jose
        T: +44-(0)7920-202120
        E: [email protected]

SOURCE World Hepatitis Alliance