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Defuse Hepatitis C, the Viral Time Bomb: Test and Treat Hepatitis C

Position Paper for the 67th World Health Assembly,
May 19–24, 2014


The World Health Organization (WHO) has referred to hepatitis C as a
“viral time bomb.”

In 2010, the 63rd World Health assembly (WHA) adopted the first resolution on viral hepatitis; a new resolution will be presented at this assembly.

Globally, an estimated 185 million people have been infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Since 2010, more than a million of them have died from HCV-related liver disease, although hepatitis C is treatable and curable. Since 2010, nine to twelve million people have become infected with hepatitis C, although it is preventable. Most new infections occur among people who inject drugs (PWID), yet access to sterile injection equipment and other HCV prevention tools is staggeringly inadequate, reaching only a tiny percentage of those who need it. This shocking public health failure allows the epidemic to continue spreading.

Most people who have HCV live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and have scarce access to HCV diagnostics, care, and treatment. Pegylated interferon (peginterferon, or PEG-IFN), the backbone of HCV treatment, is priced cruelly out of reach. And new direct-acting antiviral (DAA) medications will be even more expensive.

Even in places where HCV treatment is available, injection drug use is often used as a criterion for denying access: only 2–4 percent of the 10 million people who inject drugs (PWID) who are infected by HCV are currently receiving treatment.

We, people living with HCV, HIV/AIDS, people who use drugs, and our advocates, urge United Nations (UN) Member States to act with urgency to end the hepatitis C epidemic; it is possible!