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World Health Assembly Adopts Strategies for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and STIs

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The 194 member states participating in the 69th World Health Assembly, which governs the World Health Organization (WHO) in late May unanimously approved the adoption of WHO's draft global health sector strategies for management of HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) through the year 2021.

Calling on the membership to approve the first-ever viral hepatitis strategy, the World Hepatitis Alliance projected that more than 7 million lives could be saved if governments take steps to eliminate viral hepatitis. The strategy includes targets that aim to expand treatment to 80% of people living with hepatitis B or C and reduce deaths by 65% by 2030. Recommended prevention measures include infant vaccination against hepatitis B virus, screening of donated blood, and safe injections using clean equipment.

"The adoption of the WHO Viral Hepatitis Strategy signals the first step in eliminating viral hepatitis, an illness which affects 400 million worldwide," Raquel Peck, CEO of the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA), stated in a press release."If governments remain committed, we will witness one of the greatest global health threats eliminated within our lifetimes."

"Reducing mortality rates will not only mean a reduction in the personal cost of viral hepatitis, but will also mean reduced financial costs, with health systems no longer having to deal with significant numbers of people suffering from the results of untreated viral hepatitis," she added.

But much remains to be done, as only 36 countries had national viral hepatitis plans in place, and 33 more had plans in development, as of February 2016, according to WHA.

The 3 draft WHO strategies are available online:

"This is an important milestone as the 3 strategies are fully aligned with supporting the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include targets to end the HIV epidemic as a public health threat by 2030 and to combat viral hepatitis and other communicable diseases, including STIs," according to the International AIDS Society's news blog.

While the member states approved 3 separate strategies, they aim to facilitate greater integration across these disease areas, which share some of the same transmission routes and many people are coinfected with more than one.

"The links between HIV and STIs have long been recognized and acting on these linkages, especially for men and boys, provides a platform to engage men as recipients of sexual health services," according to IAS. "'People-centered' approaches towards all 3 disease areas will ensure greater uptake and accessibility, and it is imperative that the approach constantly ensures that they promote and encourage health-seeking behaviors."

As areas of focus, the strategies emphasize strengthening local health systems and health care work forces, integration of service delivery, tackling stigma and discrimination, addressing drug pricing (especially for hepatitis C), and increased engagement of the most affected populations including men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, transgender people, and sex workers.

6/9/16

Sources

World Health Organization. Draft global health sector strategy on HIV, 2016-2021.

World Health Organization. Draft global health sector strategy on viral hepatitis, 2016-2021.

World Health Organization. Draft global health sector strategy on sexually transmitted infections, 2016-2021.

International AIDS Society. Adopted Global Health Sector Strategies for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections. IAS Blog. June 1, 2016.

World Hepatitis Alliance. Governments on track to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. Press release. May 28, 2016.

World Hepatitis Alliance. 7.1 million lives to be saved if governments agree to eliminate global killer. Press release. May 24, 2016.