Antonio Oñate of the
Fundacion Hepatos Aion of Mexico shares his thoughts about the recent World Hepatitis Summit and the global impact of viral hepatitis
The World Hepatitis Alliance Summit has ended; countries with different cultures face the same opponent. People around the world are working according to their particular circumstance – some, under a clear strategy, others day by day – but all familiar with the challenges and difficulties of others, because they have lived it and therefore recognized in the other his equal.
For those involved in this problem it is not only a full-time job, it’s a personal matter that is constrained by the pervasive lack of resources and political commitment of many decision makers to prevent prompt and effective medical care. A recurring theme is the voracious appetite for profits of pharmaceutical companies.
But camaraderie is a link between the participants and shows that not all storm clouds darken the sky; there are rays of hope. People who work at government level show their commitment as human beings who seek to help others, their names very rarely recognized in the media but through them their governments have decided to take action:
Brazil is a case closer to us in American continent but Egypt, Georgia, Scotland among others, have made successful negotiations with manufacturers of drugs for hepatitis C that will provide access to an important treatment of their populations affected by the “silent enemy”.
Special mention is that of Egypt. It not only achieved a fair price but also has a clear strategy: to treat its 10 million people infected with hepatitis C by 2025. From October 2014 to August 2015 they gave 130,000 treatments and have been getting the cure for 85%. Next year it aims to provide 350,000 treatments.
Another case is Scotland. They recognized early in this century the serious public health threat from hepatitis and established a strategy to be developed in several phases, which began in 2006 and continues today. They have a strategic vision, which demonstrates the importance of planning ahead with short and medium term goals. They showed to other governments of the world that the time of analysis and planning should have been 10 years ago, not now that the bomb has exploded and urgent action is needed.
The remaining countries continue to do the best they can despite the Olympic sized lack of commitment by their decision makers.
The battle under such circumstances is unmatched, to say it politely. Governments remain entrenched despite seeing such a large segment of its population annihilated under the pretext of not having enough resources.
Talking about the discrimination, stigmatization and loss of jobs that patients and their families face should exert enough pressure on our governments to act promptly to stop the spread of the disease and reduce the number of deaths from this war without quarter.
A good example for taking action is the serious problem of the use and sharing of injected drugs and the importance of an injection safety program.
Thanks to the World Hepatitis Alliance, the Ministry of Health of Scotland, the governments of Brazil, Egypt and Georgia, to the people who work in government, and the pharmaceutical companies that genuinely share our goals.
But especially you, the patient, family member, and friend that advocate to seek a better quality of life for those affected by hepatitis C . And to all the parents, brothers, children, wives, husbands who have died in this unjust war, thank you for your courage and tenacity.
Thanks and keep fighting!