Campaign launch: Unite to Eliminate Hepatitis C

“Being diagnosed with hepatitis C was like a death sentence for me,” says Tetiana from Odesa, Ukraine.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) approximately 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C related liver diseases, yet antiviral medicines can cure approximately 90% of persons. That’s why today, on World Hepatitis Day, Unite to Eliminate Hep C has launched, calling for more affordable hepatits C testing and treatment.

People who inject drugs are disproportionately affected by hepatitis. WHO estimate that approximately 11 million people who inject drugs have hepatitis B or C infection. Fear of arrest, compulsory registration as a drug user and discriminatory treatment in formal health services can result in poor access to testing and treatment. Unite to Eliminate is in sync with WHO’s campaign, also launching today, which includes a recommendation to dramatically increase hepatitis testing for “people considered to be at high risk of infection.”

Alliance Ukraine, which hosts the Alliance Global Centre of Practice for drug use and HIV/hepatitis C is leading the Alliance’s campaign, in partnership with a group of Alliance Linking Organisations. Alliance Ukraine has a mass of experience in reaching people who use drugs in Ukraine and globally with cost effective services.

hep c campaign

A series of national trials have allowed Alliance Ukraine to demonstrate and advocate for best practice and shown Alliance Ukraine to be an expert in this field. A recent trial providing fast acting antivirals to 1,500 people has been proving successful, and expansion is planned for 2016.

Svitlana Antoniak, Head of AIDS department at the Gromashevsky Institute, which has been engaged in viral hepatitis research for over 60 years, said the most recent trial was “making treatment more effective and shorter, and importantly, less expensive.” Cost of hepatitis C treatment is a significant barrier, with treatment unaffordable for many patients, and people who inject drugs can be systematically excluded from treatment programs.

Thanks to one of Alliance Ukraine’s trials, Tetiana was able to access treatment and her hepatitis C diagnosis was not a death sentence. It was years after her initial diagnosis that Tetiana found out treatment did exist, but that the high costs of treatment meant it was still out of reach. If it wasn’t for the trial, treatment still wouldn’t have been an option. “I felt I had a chance to live. I received a full course of treatment… and today I am free of hepatitis C.”

Tetiana describes how “with new energy” she is an advocate for rights and health of people living with hepatitis C, and how she is able to live a happy and full life. “Today I am a mother, a wife, a community leader and an advocate.”

Get involved

You can connect with the campaign on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. As well as posting your own message you can change your social media profile picture in support of the campaign and share your selfie with the campaign logo. Download campaign images here.

The hashtag is #EliminateHepC.

More information

Read the press release from Alliance Ukraine here. It includes what the campaign calls on governments, international donors, civil society, and pharmaceutical companies to do, plus details on what the participating Linking Organisations are doing in support of the campaign.

The Linking Organisations behind the campaign are Alliance Ukraine, AIDS Care China, Alliance India, Alliance Myanmar, KANCO in Kenya, KHANA in Cambodia, MAC in Malaysia, MAMTA in India, Rumah Cemara in Indonesia, and SCDI in Vietnam.