Today, the 28th of July, is World Hepatitis Day to recognize the need to further raise awareness of chronic hepatitis B and C around the globe and to advocate for policy change to improve health outcomes for people affected by viral hepatitis. Together, hepatitis B and C affect one in 12 people worldwide and approximately one million people die from these viruses every year (World Health Organization).
The 2011 theme for World Hepatitis Day is ‘This is hepatitis... Know it. Confront it. Hepatitis affects everyone, everywhere.’ This inclusive theme emphasizes the scale of viral hepatitis and helps combat the stigma often associated with hepatitis B and C by conveying the fact that these viruses do not discriminate.
Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver and can be caused by a wide range of things. One of the most common causes of chronic (long-term) hepatitis is viral infection, which can be transmitted sexually. Hepatitis B and C are two such viruses and approximately 500 million people around the world are currently infected with chronic hepatitis B or C. Unlike hepatitis C, hepatitis B can be prevented through effective vaccination.
As viral hepatitis is transmitted in similar ways as HIV, coinfection is a growing concern. In people living with HIV, infection with viral hepatitis can lead to more serious complications, such as more rapid liver damage. Coinfection can also complicate the treatment of HIV infection. It is important for people living with HIV to be tested for viral hepatitis and take steps to prevent infection.
Hepatitis is a global problem and by working together we can deliver change in prevention and access to testing and treatment.
For more information about HIV and hepatitis, including prevention, diagnosis and treatment: http://www.aidsmap.com/Hepatitis-and-HIV/cat/1508/
For more information about World Hepatitis Day, including campaign materials in different languages: http://www.worldhepatitisalliance.org/Home.aspx