- Viral hepatitis deaths are projected to outnumber HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria deaths combined by 2040.
- Vaccines and treatments for viral hepatitis could end the epidemic, but investments and political will are lacking.
- The conference aims to raise significant funds to accelerate action in countries already generating momentum toward elimination.
Geneva, 4 April 2023 – The Hepatitis Fund and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) today announced the inaugural Global Hepatitis Resource Mobilization Conference, which will take place in Geneva on May 17, 2023. The high-level conference will be hosted by the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The event is a global call to action to boost financial and political commitment towards viral hepatitis elimination by 2030.
Viral hepatitis is the seventh leading cause of mortality worldwide. Despite a cure for Hepatitis C (HCV) and a vaccine for Hepatitis B (HBV), both viruses affect more than 350 million people, with 90 per cent of infections concentrated in low- and middle-income countries. Every year, over 1.1 million people die from a hepatitis-related illness, and three million are newly infected. If not addressed, viral hepatitis deaths are projected to outnumber HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria deaths combined by 2040. Despite this, the global health threat of viral hepatitis is hugely neglected and underfunded.
“It cannot be business as usual – continuing to underestimate the threat of viral hepatitis will lead to more preventable loss of life and avoidable economic costs in those countries that can least afford it,” said Finn Jarle Rode, Executive Director of The Hepatitis Fund. “The conference’s goal is ambitious, but it is an effort worth making.”
The conference has set a goal of raising significant funds to support investment in countries where there is already political commitment and initial action has been taken towards implementing a national plan. These catalytic funds will help kick-start implementation or significantly accelerate progress towards achieving the country’s goals. The target amount for this collective effort is US$150 million.
In 2016, the world committed to the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030. Still, despite the availability of vaccines, reliable diagnostics and effective treatments, efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis are not scaled up in resource-limited regions where they are most needed. Globally, over 80 per cent of people living with hepatitis are lacking prevention, testing and treatment services. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Unitaid provide much-needed funding for hepatitis in the context of HIV co-infection, but philanthropic and ODA engagement in broader efforts to eliminate hepatitis has been minimal to date.
Yet, there is compelling evidence that targeted investments in diagnostic testing and medicines to treat hepatitis B and C can now save lives and provide long-term savings for countries by reducing the costs of care for hepatitis-related diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.
There have been promising examples of progress in many countries. Egypt, until recently home to the highest burden of HCV in the world, planned and executed a successful HCV national elimination programme which allowed them to screen more than 50 million people and treat four million more between 2014 and 2020. That was achieved thanks to a combination of strong political will, increased domestic healthcare spending, and external funding. Georgia, India, Mongolia and Rwanda have also made significant strides towards eliminating viral hepatitis.
“Since 2015, when a cure for HCV became available, CHAI has been working to make a simplified ‘test and treat’ protocol accessible to low- and middle-income countries around the world,” said Dr Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of CHAI. “For hepatitis B, an affordable and effective vaccine has already greatly reduced new infections. Delivering a birth dose of the hep B vaccine to all newborns, and lifelong treatment to everyone who needs it, will ensure we achieve a hep-B free generation. I urge everyone to help make this conference a turning point in the drive to end hepatitis.”
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Notes to editors
Viral hepatitis is a potentially life-threatening liver infection and is the seventh leading cause of mortality worldwide. Globally, it affects more than 350 million people – more than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined – and every year, it kills more than one million people. The two main types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV).
296 million people live with hepatitis B (HBV). HBV is preventable by a safe, effective, and inexpensive vaccine. Yet, the HBV epidemic is growing, with an estimated 1.5 million new infections per year, mostly driven by transmission from mother to child during birth and delivery. HBV can be prevented by vaccines that are safe, available and effective.
Globally, 58 million people live with chronic hepatitis C, and 290,000 die yearly from HCV-related liver complications such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95 per cent of people with HCV, but only 21 per cent of people with HCV are aware of their status, and 13 per cent of diagnosed people have received treatment.
Investing US$6 billion annually to end hepatitis in 67 low- and middle-income countries would prevent the deaths of 4.5 million people by 2030. There is compelling evidence of the cost saving, too: for every dollar spent on HBV elimination activities, there is a two to four times return on investment. For example, investments in HBV elimination are estimated to enable cost savings in the Philippines by 2024 and in Vietnam by 2027. HCV elimination would avert 2.1 million deaths globally, generate USD 46.1 billion in cumulative productivity gains and become cost-saving by 2027, with a net economic benefit of USD 22.7 billion by 2030.
Francesca Da Ros (The Hepatitis Fund)
T: +41 762 67 33 66
Michael Kessler (The Hepatitis Fund)
T: +34 655 79 26 99
Corina Milic (The Clinton Health Access Initiative)
About the organizations
About The Hepatitis Fund
The Hepatitis Fund (THF), based in Geneva, is the only grant-making organization working on hepatitis elimination. We mobilize public and private resources to eliminate viral hepatitis as a global health threat. We provide grants to selected programmes and projects with high impact, build financial partnerships, offer technical support on health financing and advocate for increased national and international funding to eliminate viral hepatitis. Our expertise lies in defining, in collaboration with the hepatitis community, which investments will have a truly catalytic effect and then making, managing, and monitoring those investments. For more information, please visit www.endhep2030.org.
The Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc. (CHAI) is a global health organization committed to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries. We work with our partners to help strengthen the capabilities of governments and the private sector to create and sustain high-quality health systems. For more information, please visit www.clintonhealthaccess.org.