Infectious Diseases Professionals: Eliminating Viral Hepatitis ‘Ambitious but Achievable’ Goal
U.S. Must Expand Access to Prevention and Treatment to Accelerate Progress
As scientific and political leaders commemorate World Hepatitis Day, infectious diseases professionals call on policymakers to support the updated National Viral Hepatitis Strategic Plan that aims to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat in the United States by investing new resources and by removing barriers that continue to stand in the way.
America is undertaking a concerted and coordinated effort to end viral hepatitis. This ambitious but achievable goal will not be met unless Congress boosts funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s viral hepatitis program, supports syringe services programs, and addresses serious infections like hepatitis C, which are linked to injection drug use.
States need to lift restrictions on Medicaid coverage of antiviral therapies that continue to hold back a cure for too many patients. States also need to support policies that promote access to syringe services programs in order to prevent new cases.
An estimated 850,000 people in the U.S. are living with hepatitis B, and hepatitis C cases increased 71% between 2014 and 2018 even though these diseases are preventable. Left untreated, hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer and 1.3 million people die with such complications of viral hepatitis worldwide every year even though a vaccine for hepatitis B and treatments to clear the hepatitis C are available.
COVID-19 has reinforced the urgent need for greater investment in public health and health equity. The U.S. needs to expand access to prevention services, including syringe exchange and vaccines, screening and treatment for viral hepatitis if we are to make meaningful progress toward ending these public health threats by 2025.
Barbara Alexander, MD, MHS, FIDSA
President, Infectious Diseases Society of America
Rajesh T. Gandhi, MD, FIDSA
Chair, HIV Medicine Association
The Infectious Diseases Society of America is a community of over 12,000 physicians, scientists and public health experts who specialize in infectious diseases. Its purpose is to improve the health of individuals, communities, and society by promoting excellence in patient care, education, research, public health, and prevention relating to infectious diseases. Learn more at www.idsociety.org.
The HIV Medicine Association is the professional home for more than 6,000 physicians, scientists and other health care professionals dedicated to the field of HIV/AIDS. The Infectious Diseases Society of America created HIVMA to promote quality in HIV care and advocates policies that ensure a comprehensive and humane response to the AIDS pandemic informed by science and social justice. Learn more at www.hivma.org.