World Hepatitis Day: Missed Opportunities for Awareness?

Yesterday was World Hepatitis Day. This is a day where we can give special attention to the world wide problem of viral hepatitis, the people that it affects, and celebrate the new therapies and technology that are available.

Reviewing numerous websites and online publications, they all state the desire to alert the world, as well as those of us in the United States, to the perils of viral hepatitis. A press release from the American Liver Foundation stated the following:

Hopefully, July 28 will be a day when more Americans become familiar with how to prevent, get tested and treated for hepatitis.

Unfortunately, the best of sincere intentions has made barely a ripple in the global understanding of viral hepatitis. No major television news outlet in the United States, nor such papers such as the New York Times, mentioned World Hepatitis Day.

Considering there are 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A every year, 240 million people living with chronic hepatitis B, 150 million people chronically infected with hepatitis C, this remains a global health concern. Untreated hepatitis B and C leads to progressive liver failure, the eventual development of liver cancer, and the need for liver transplantation. Effective antiviral therapies are available, and the key is early diagnosis and intervention.

The hepatitis community needs to take a more aggressive strategic stance, along the lines of HIV and breast cancer awareness. I salute these two diseases, and their respective organizations, in that they have done a superior job in creating public awareness and a call to action.

I dream for the day that the publics understanding and awareness of viral hepatitis is at the level of HIV and breast cancer awareness. My goal day after day is to touch as many people as possible, spreading the word on viral hepatitis, both locally and on a worldwide basis.

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