For information only - not an official document
27 July 2016
Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime:
Statement on World Hepatitis Day
28 July 2016
VIENNA, 28 July (UN Information Service) - Throughout the world chronic hepatitis remains an enduring challenge for health care systems and those suffering from this debilitating disease. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is dedicated to working with its many partners to support injecting drug users and people in prison who are most at risk.
Statistics show that hepatitis has reached epidemic proportions in some parts of the world and needs to be eliminated alongside HIV/AIDS. Six million people who inject drugs live with hepatitis C; while one million injecting drug users suffer from hepatitis B. Eighty per cent of people who inject drugs with HIV are co-infected with hepatitis C. This problem is especially acute in the world's prisons where two-thirds of prisoners with a history of drug use have hepatitis C.
Both hepatitis B and C are preventable and curable. We know what needs to be done. Hepatitis vaccination, prevention, diagnosis and treatment are essential when combined with other measures as outlined in the comprehensive package for people who inject drugs, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNODC, and UNAIDS. Stigma and discrimination must also be overcome to ensure people seek and receive assistance. This is especially true in prisons; only a few countries have the necessary comprehensive hepatitis programmes in place. Access offered in prisons should be equal to that provided in the community and should include invaluable hepatitis A and B vaccinations for all prisoners and staff.
Action against hepatitis has been reaffirmed in a series of key events this year. Our commitments were embodied in the adoption last September of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and especially in Goal 3 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem in April reiterated the need to end epidemics such as AIDS, as well as to combat communicable diseases such as hepatitis by 2030. A UN General Assembly high-level meeting on ending AIDS this year also agreed to reduce by 30 per cent new cases of chronic viral hepatitis B and C among those who use drugs, and to do so before 2020.
We, therefore, have the global commitment among organizations and countries, but on World Hepatitis Day there is a need to build momentum to ensure that everyone who injects drugs, whether in prisons or the wider community, has access to effective, gender- and age-responsive interventions for HIV and hepatitis.
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