Prevention can help eliminate hepatitis by 2030

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  • Myanmar observed World Hepatitis Day 2019 on 28 July in Yangon.
    Some statistics on hepatitis, disclosed at the ceremony, set alarm bells ringing. It was revealed that 6.5 per cent of Myanmar’s population is living with Hepatitis B, and 2.7 per cent has been diagnosed with Hepatitis C. In addition, one in ten people do not know that they are living with hepatitis and thus, fail to receive medical attention in time.
    The figures were disclosed by the Department of Public Health, the Department of Medical Research, and the Myanmar Liver Foundation, based on a survey conducted in 2015.
    The Ministry of Health and Sports has conducted a free vaccination programme nationwide for inoculating newborns and infants aged 2-6 months against Hepatitis B.
    The Ministry opened treatment centres for Hepatitis C in seven hospitals in Yangon and Mandalay regions, and Nay Pyi Taw in 2017, and in Myitkyina and Mawlamyine in 2018.
    The Ministry was able to provide treatment to 5,000 Hepatitis B patients as of May, 2019. It is comforting to know that the Ministry has plans to open new treatment centres in August and September.
    The World Health Organization is working with health authorities in different countries, including Myanmar, for effective control of HCV, to reduce its incidence, and curb hepatitis-related mortality, with a Global Health Sector Strategy (GHSS) to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. Myanmar joined with the WHO in 2013 to fight the epidemic, with the same global goal as the UN: to eliminate the viral disease by 2030.
    Viral hepatitis caused 1.4 million deaths in 2015, which is comparable with the annual deaths from tuberculosis and higher than the annual deaths from HIV.
    In fact, the hepatitis epidemic drew little attention for many years until 2015, when the global burden of disease figure came out, and now, hepatitis is considered as the 7th leading cause of deaths worldwide.
    The task to end the epidemic is herculean, and the government alone cannot handle it.
    And, it poses several challenges, such as lack of patient awareness about the transmission of diseases and affordable treatment.
    The Myanmar Liver Foundation has been working with the Ministry to organize hepatitis screening, administer vaccinations, and provide treatment to people through 23 township branches.
    Efforts are needed to educate the public about the modes of transmission and prevention of the HCV infection. Prevention is, after all, better than cure, and we would like to urge everyone to proactively participate in efforts to ensure the viral disease is eliminated by 2030.
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