Viral hepatitis remains a pressing concern, causing over 125,000 deaths annually in Africa alone, despite the existence of effective treatments and Hepatitis B vaccine. It is alarming that in Africa, over 70% of people living with viral hepatitis are unaware of their status and more than 90% lack necessary care. To address this, the World Hepatitis Alliance in collaboration with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and other dedicated partners, organized the 3rd African Hepatitis Summit 2023 hosted by the Federal Government of Nigeria in Abuja from 24th to 26th October, 2023. The summit aimed to secure commitment from government leaders, the private sector, and civil society. Operating the theme ‘Putting Africa on Track towards Viral Hepatitis Elimination’, the summit explored local financing opportunities, comprehensive strategies for hepatitis B and C elimination, and progress made towards implementation of the African Union Cairo Declaration on Viral Hepatitis.
The Role of Africa CDC
The Africa CDC reaffirmed its commitment to alleviating the burden of viral hepatitis through the Continental Viral Hepatitis Prevention and Control Program. This initiative embrace a multifaceted approach focusing strengthening health systems, improving access to diagnosis and treatment, enhancing surveillance strategies to improve understanding of disease burden to prioritize prevention intervention, developing the healthcare workforce, and scaling up the introduction and coverage of timely administration of Hepatitis B birth dose vaccine. Through collaborative dialogue, and leveraging collective expertise in sharing of best practices, Africa CDC aims to strengthen support for Member States in eliminating viral hepatitis. For example, in partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population, Africa CDC has instituted a south-to-south experiential sharing training program, with the objective of replicating Egypt’s successful model for eliminating viral hepatitis C in other African Union Member States. The African Hepatitis Summit 2023 provided a platform for Egypt to share experiences that could be replicated by experts from other Member States. As underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic, global health relies on collective efforts, emphasizing the interconnectedness between the health and well-being of nations. Africa CDC emphasizes that eliminating viral hepatitis is both a goal and an imperative that will be reached through solidarity among Member States in the fight against hepatitis.
The summit led to critical recommendations that aim to accelerate Africa’s commitment to eliminate hepatitis by 2030.
The Outcome of the Summit
Governments across Africa were urged to prioritize several key actions including:
Scale up Hepatitis B and C Testing: Governments were encouraged to implement testing strategies co-designed with individuals who have lived through the experience of hepatitis. These strategies should be delivered through a collaboration of public, private, and community-based services, using innovative point-of-care screening and diagnostic tools integrated with existing one-stop testing services.
Improve Linkage to Care: Ensuring that people living with viral hepatitis have access to life-saving treatments was highlighted as a crucial step in the elimination process.
Enhance Collaboration with Partners: An enabling environment for collaboration with partners, including affected communities, was deemed essential. These communities should be at the centre of the viral hepatitis response.
Integration into Health Systems: Integration of viral hepatitis into health systems, particularly in antenatal care, was advocated as part of the triple elimination strategy.
Newborn and Infant Vaccination: The inclusion of newborn and infant hepatitis B vaccination in routine immunization programs was recommended to prevent deaths among children born in Africa.
Legislation for Equal Rights: Governments were advised to adopt and enforce laws, policies, and practices that safeguard the equal rights of people living with viral hepatitis, enabling them to live their lives free from discrimination or disadvantage.
Domestic Financing: Significantly increasing domestic financing for hepatitis programs was emphasized to ensure that Africans have access to vaccination, testing, care, and treatment. The African Hepatitis Summit 2023 served as a crucial forum for stakeholders across the continent to advance discussions and inspire action. It allowed for the exchange of experiences, challenges, and best practices, and promoting learning between countries at different stages of eliminating hepatitis. Africa CDC will continue to closely collaborate with African Member States and partners to develop strategic priorities not only for viral hepatitis but also for other major health concerns.
For more information contact:
Dr. Nafiisah Chotun – Programme Lead for Endemic and Neglected Tropical Diseases
Africa CDC ChotunB@africacdc.org
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