Since 2010 the World Hepatitis Day is held on July 28. On this day the world focuses on raising awareness about viral hepatitis. According to World Health Organization there are an estimated 400 million people infected with viral hepatitis B and C and around 1.45 million die annually from their consequences. Until recently, there was no global strategy on viral hepatitis, but in May 2016 the World Health Assembly adopted its first Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis. The strategy aims to eliminate viral hepatitis with reducing the incidence by 90% until 2030, as well as by providing treatment for 8 million people by 2020, which should reduce the incidence by 30%.

Recent developments of new, more effective treatment options for hepatitis C allow us to believe that the goal of eliminating viral hepatitis is achievable. There is an effective vaccine against hepatitis B, and there are new direct acting agents (DAAs) for the treatment of hepatitis C, which cure the infection in over 90% of the cases. Until recently this was unimaginable.

But as promising as it all sounds, there are real barriers in achieving the goals of 2030 and even 2020. A treatment course for hepatitis C with the new DAAs is so expensive that most countries cannot afford an elimination programme. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia the situation is even worse: patients have limited access to older therapy options, which are more exhausting, not always effective, and still not affordable for the individuals or the health systems.

There is also the issue of prevention and testing programmes. There is shrinking budgets in most countries in Europe for prevention programmes, and in Russia, the “foreign agent” creates further obstacles for NGOs providing harm reduction services and testing programmes for viral hepatitis and HIV.

We have all the tools and knowledge to eliminate viral hepatitis as mono- and co-infection in less than 15 years globally. For this ambitious goal the global community must advocate for affordable medications, properly funding prevention and testing services. Without proper funding and programming, the goals will not be realized and viral hepatitis will remain as a great threat to global public health.

For more information check-out the World Hepatitis Day website