Tomorrow, July 28, is the annual global observance of World Hepatitis Day. One of only eight official ‘health days’ recognized by the World Health Organization, the day brings together patient advocacy groups and other stakeholders under a single theme to raise awareness of the huge global burden of viral hepatitis and to support progress toward elimination of the serious health challenges posed by hepatitis B and C.
Viral Hepatitis Affects Many People Living with HIV in the U.S.
People living with HIV in the United States are often affected by chronic viral hepatitis; about one-third are coinfected with either hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV). About 1 in 10 people living with HIV are coinfected with HBV, and about 1 in 4 people are coinfected with HCV. All people living with HIV should be screened for both HBV and HCV infection because viral hepatitis progresses faster and causes more liver-related health problems among people living with HIV than among those who do not have HIV and there are ways to help people with coinfection.
HBV infection is treatable and can delay or limit liver damage. For those who test negative for HBV infection, the HBV vaccination is recommended and is the best way to prevent the infection. However, a recent CDC study indicated that there was a low prevalence of hepatitis B vaccination among patients receiving HIV medical care in the U.S., with more than a third of the patients having had missed opportunities to get vaccinated.
HCV infection can be cured in more than 9 in 10 people with the new direct-acting antiviral medications that have few side effects and are very effective in people living with HIV. Hepatitis C-related liver disease has become one of the leading causes of non-AIDS-related death among people living with HIV in the United States. But with the advent of direct-acting antiviral therapies that can cure HCV in the majority of people who take them – including people living with HIV – we now have the exciting opportunity to eliminate HCV by curing people and preventing both transmission and HCV-related deaths among people living with HIV.
This year’s World Hepatitis Day theme is “Find the Missing Millions.” Worldwide, 300 million people are living with viral hepatitis but are unaware that they have the infections. Viral hepatitis is the cause of 1.34 million deaths per year around the world and it causes most liver cancer deaths, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance. Without finding people who are undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and lives will be lost.
On World Hepatitis Day, we invite you to learn more:
- Read more about HBV and HCV coinfection among people living with HIV on our HIV Basics page.
- Learn about the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and how you and your organization can contribute to finding people who are undiagnosed and help connect them to care and treatment. Follow @HHS_ViralHep on Twitter for updates.
- Take the CDC’s 5-minute online viral hepatitis risk assessment and encourage others to do the same.
- Read and share our recent blog posts about efforts underway to eliminate HCV coinfection among people living with HIV who are receiving care through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program:
- Visit the World Hepatitis Day website and join the conversation on social media with #WorldHepatitisDay2018 and @Hep_Alliance.