Viral hepatitis (VH) is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Globally, it is the seventh biggest annual killer. It affects more than 350 million – more than HIV/AIDS, TB or malaria. Fortunately, hepatitis C (HCV) is curable thanks to the health technologies which have been developed over the past 10 years and hence, it can be eliminated. The financing gap to roll these out and eliminate HCV globally through prevention, screening, testing and treatment has been estimated at USD 41.5 billion between 2018 and 2030.
However, not one major philanthropic funder has committed to the goal of HCV elimination and only a handful of countries, mostly high-income, are on track to achieve the World Health Assembly elimination targets. This is despite the compelling evidence that elimination would avert 2.1 million HCV-related deaths globally, generate USD 46.1 billion in cumulative productivity gains and become cost-saving by 2027, with a net economic benefit of USD 22.7 billion by 2030.
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) released a discussion paper summarizing the unique opportunity that international and national actors have to come together and commit to eliminate HCV and to generate historic gains from the health, social and economic impact of these efforts. The paper offers examples of elimination programmes that have been successfully financed and implemented in low- and middle-income countries. They illustrate how the sustainability of these programmes was secured by traditional government health financing coupled with external resources, such as catalytic funding or development aid loans. Alternative financing mechanisms that have been used for other diseases responses are also proposed as a potential way forward to finance HCV elimination efforts.
’With a person dying every 30 seconds from a hepatitis-related illness, we can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis. A hepatitis-free future is possible!’
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
WHO Director-General (World Hepatitis Day, 28 July 2021)