Committing the World Health Organization and member states of the United Nations to efforts to combat to hepatitis worldwide, the 67th World Health Assembly today passed a Hepatitis Resolution that includes calls to use legal flexibilities to lower prices of new effective medicines, and accelerate harm reduction programs for people who inject drugs.
The resolution comes four years after the WHA passed its first viral hepatitis resolution, calling on the WHO to support World Hepatitis Day events, strengthen its network promoting safe injection practices, and collaborate with partners to increase access to affordable medicines, among other efforts.
This 2014 resolution commits the WHO to work with governments requesting assistance in building needle and syringe exchange programs and opioid substitution therapies into their hepatitis prevention, diagnosis and treatment efforts. Currently, according to estimates in a position paper from six global health advocacy groups, of the estimated nine to twelve million people who have been infected with the hepatitis C virus since 2010, most new infections of the blood-borne disease have occurred among people who inject drugs. Although HCV is curable, the position paper estimates that 2- to-4 percent of 10 million people who inject drugs and are infected with the virus are receiving treatment.
The resolution also notes that up to five million people living with HIV are co-infected with hepatitis C virus, and more than three million are co-infected with hepatitis B virus, and calls on U.N. member states to aim for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care for people who inject drugs.
Read the resolution, as produced in January 2014 for the World Health Assembly executive board here. Read a position paper prepared for the Assembly by Médecins du Monde, Treatment Action Group, ACTUP Basel, APN Plus, INPUD, ITPC, here.