Viral Hepatitis is a serious public health problem in Southeast Asia, including India. However, many remain unaware about the illness and its preventive measures, effective treatments and the hepatitis B vaccine.

“Each year viral hepatitis infects millions of people across the region, causing the death of around 410 000 persons – more than HIV and malaria combined. It is also a major cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis, contributing to premature morbidity and mortality, and undermining economic growth and the push to achieve health and wellbeing for all,” according to Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

Unfortunately, stigma and discrimination against those suffering the disease remain common across the region.

“To overcome these barriers and eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030, as per regional and global targets, enhanced awareness and understanding of how to prevent, treat and manage the disease is vital”.

How to overcome the problem of viral hepatitis?

According to Singh, health authorities across the region can increase the prominence of hepatitis-related information and advocacy. Apart from it all, beyond policy-level interventions, she suggests the following:

Each of us can contribute to raising awareness and helping eliminate the disease in our own way.

We can share our experiences of hepatitis infection openly, challenging social taboos.

We can express solidarity with persons affected by hepatitis, creating a culture of empathy and care.

And we can also take a moment to learn more about the disease, sharing that knowledge with our friends, colleagues and loved ones.

Amitabh Bachchan’s message:

Amitabh Bachchan, WHO South-East Asia Goodwill Ambassador for Viral Hepatitis, demonstrates that “hepatitis infection can happen to anyone at any time, and needn’t be accompanied by shame or guilt. It is a common and treatable disease; it is something we must all acknowledge and face up to.”