World Hepatitis Day, July 28 | 27 July 2019
‘Invest in eliminating hepatitis’
“Although many infected persons have been treated successfully, we need to invest more resources in curing people living with hepatitis.”
Health Minister Jean-Paul Adam said this in his message on the occasion of the World Hepatitis Day tomorrow, July 28.
The full text of Minister Adam’s message reads:
“For several years now, every July 28 on the birthday of the late Dr Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011), Seychelles joins the global community to commemorate World Hepatitis Day.
“Dr Blumberg won the Nobel Prize for discovering the hepatitis B virus in 1967 and developing the first hepatitis B vaccine two years later.
“Viral hepatitis B and C affect 325 million people worldwide causing 1.4 million deaths a year. Hepatitis is preventable, treatable, and in the case of hepatitis C, curable. However, over 80% of people living with hepatitis are lacking prevention, testing and treatment services.
“According to WHO Progress report on access to hepatitis C treatment an estimated 1.5 million people started direct-acting antiviral treatment in 2016, compared to around 1 million in 2015. Despite significant progress, the overall number of people receiving HCV cure is still only around 3 million – out of a total 71 million people who require it.
In Seychelles the government remains committed to the prevention and control of hepatitis. Hepatitis B vaccines forms part of the vaccination calendar of infants as well as all healthcare workers and other people who are occupationally at risk of contracting hepatitis B.
“In addition to infant vaccination, the Ministry of Health is also implementing blood safety strategies, including quality-assured screening of all donated blood and blood components used for transfusion, safe injection practices, and eliminating unnecessary and unsafe injections.
“With the intensification of efforts to tackle hepatitis, a dramatic reduction in viral hepatitis C was recorded in 2018. Although this reduction in hepatitis C cases is encouraging and points to positive results of harm reduction programmes, the cumulative number of Hepatitis C cases reported by the Ministry of Health since 2002 has steadily increased to reach 1018 asof December 2018. Studies conducted in Seychelles over the past years, indicate that people who are injecting drugs remain the main drivers of this epidemic through sharing of contaminated drug-injecting equipment.
“To respond to this challenge, Seychelles has put in place several strategies such as needle exchange programmes, opiate substitution therapy, testing in non-traditional settings, availing counselling and education at different levels of society, and investing in treatment, psychosocial support and rehabilitation. For a few years now, the government has allocated financial resources towards hepatitis medications. We are glad that many infected persons have been treated successfully. Unfortunately, this is not enough. We need to invest more resources in curing people living with hepatitis.
“While many of these interventions are not popular in some parts of our society, we must remain focused on interventions that bring results on the basis of the available evidence.
“The ministry is working closely with several key stakeholders mainly the Agency for Prevention of Drug and Rehabilitation (Apdar) through integration of viral hepatitis services. Additionally, our HIV/ Aids Prevention and Control unit, has set up since 2017 a mechanism, namely the HIV/ Aids Prevention Task Force (HAPTF) that brings in key national stakeholders together to intensify the outreach programmes at the grass root level. I personally salute the men and women who have dedicated their lives to fighting drug use and eliminating hepatitis in Seychelles.
“Despite that there are still gaps to be bridged such as availing more funds to invest in treatment for all, strengthening the after care initiatives, improving decentralisation, and scaling up networking and synergies among stakeholders. We are also mindful that a huge challenge exists in eliminating hepatitis in prison. We are also worried that hepatitis B is on the rise, despite a robust vaccination programme in Seychelles against the virus for over two decades now.
“In order for us to bridge these gaps, the persistent social, legal, gender and economic inequalities that is undermining the coverage and uptake of viral hepatitis services, need to be addressed.
“On this World Hepatitis Day, the Ministry of Health remains committed in the quest of eliminating viral hepatitis. In line with this year’s theme ‘Invest in eliminating hepatitis’, my ministry will redouble its efforts to invest in prevention and treatment of hepatitis to achieve its goal of eliminating hepatitis.
“As we drive to reach the elimination targets we need to recount how we translate evidence into policy and practice, and how we transform our words into bold action. Let us remain at the forefront of the efforts to ensure effectiveness of programmes and to drive investment needs where new infections are occurring, where actions need to be placed in order to prevent them, and where prevention and treatment programmes reach those in need.
“As we commemorate this day, I request every stakeholder in every corner of our country to unite and rise to the challenge and take firm hold of our shared responsibility to ending viral hepatitis in our country in this generation.”