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article imageNine of 194 countries keeping pledge to eradicate hepatitis: summit

By Paula RAMON (AFP)     Nov 1, 2017 in Health

Only nine of 194 countries which pledged last year to eradicate hepatitis by 2030 are working towards that goal, according to figures revealed Wednesday at the second World Hepatitis Summit in Brazil.

Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Japan, The Netherlands, Australia, Qatar and Brazil are the only countries taking steps to overcome the disease, a liver inflammation which kills 1.3 million people every year.

The three-day summit in Sao Paulo -- organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Hepatitis Alliance -- welcomed representatives from 80 governments and around 200 experts to discuss diagnosis and treatment.

Host Brazil promoted its successful widespread testing strategy, which has seen 28 million screenings carried out in the last six years, aiming to reach 200 million by 2030 to cover almost its entire population.

"These results bring hope that the elimination of hepatitis can and will become a reality," said Gottfried Hirnschall, director of WHO's Department of HIV and Global Hepatitis Program.

Access to treatment was also discussed, after the WHO said Tuesday a record three million people received hepatitis C treatment in the last two years, and 2.8 million received type B treatment in 2016.

But millions are still denied breakthrough treatments such as sofosbuvir and daclatasvir -- which have a 95 percent success rate and work in 12 weeks.

For humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the solution is comparable generics.

"Governments must use every tool in their toolbox to fight for access to lower-priced generics," said Jessica Burry, pharmacist for MSF's Access Campaign, suggesting governments should "issue compulsory licenses" when patents block access.

There are 325 million confirmed hepatitis cases worldwide -- but the estimated diagnosis rates for hepatitis B and C, two of five types, are just 10 and 20 percent respectively.

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