Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are a major health burden and a leading cause of death in the WHO Europe region. Almost 30 million people are infected, and more than 170,000 people will die prematurely every year as a result of their disease. Without concerted action, that number will only keep rising. This is in spite of the availability of an effective vaccine for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C.
Clearly, eliminating both diseases is both highly desirable and achievable. Doing so would not only help prevent premature deaths, it would dramatically reduce the burden these illnesses place on public health, freeing resources for other priorities. However, this will require political commitment to the necessary investment to deliver the required surveillance, prevention, testing and treatment. The challenge was therefore how to create a common voice amongst a wide range of stakeholders to campaign for the EU to support Member States to achieve the WHO’s 2020 eliminaton target.
The FIPRA Approach
FIPRA supports a number of organisations that come together to form an influential coalition that campaigns for elimination. The ACHIEVE (Associations Collaborating on Hepatitis to Immunise and Eliminate the Viruses in Europe) Coalition, which launched in 2017, brings together an impressive collection of stakeholders, including academia, leading clinicians, public health experts, community, patient advocacy and manufacturers. The coalition is also in close dialogue with experts from WHO Europe and the ECDC.
This multi-stakeholder platform set a goal of eliminating hepatitis in Europe through political advocacy and awareness raising, defining six priority areas to advance this agenda. It is leveraging Europe’s existing commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the WHO Global Strategy and WHO Europe’s action plan to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
In the short time since its creation, the Coalition has established itself as an influential and credible body in building consensus not only on hepatitis but also on HIV/AIDS and TB. It is a regular contributor to EU policy initiatives on these diseases. Importantly, it also supported joint efforts to make hepatitis one of the health priorities of Romania’s EU Presidency in 2019.