Overcoming the barriers to diagnosis

Nine out of 10 people living with viral hepatitis are unaware – that’s more than 290 million people across the globe. Only 20% of people living with hepatitis C are aware of their condition and less than 10% of people living with hepatitis B.[I]

In every region, diagnosis remains one of the biggest challenges for the elimination of viral hepatitis because without timely diagnosis, infection rates will continue to escalate and people won’t be able to access life-saving treatments. The African and South East Asia regions have the lowest diagnosis rates, with 93% and 91% of the population living with viral hepatitis being unaware. This is compared to 83% in Eastern Mediterranean, 79% in Western Pacific, 68% in European and 64% in the Americas region.[I]

[i] CDA Foundation and its Polaris Observatory. Hepatitis B and C diagnosis rates in 2017, 2017

Barriers to diagnosis

People across the globe are being denied their right to know their health status. In an effort to increase diagnosis rates across the globe, the World Hepatitis Alliance commissioned a multi-country survey to identify the key barriers to the diagnosis. Based on our research, we found the main barriers to diagnosis globally are:

  1. Lack of public knowledge of the disease
  2. Lack of knowledge of the disease amongst healthcare professionals
  3. Lack of easily accessible testing
  4. Stigma and discrimination
  5. The out-of-pocket costs to the patients

Overcoming the barriers to diagnosis

Overcoming the barriers to diagnosis will be critical if we are to reach elimination. The survey findings informed a two-day stakeholder consultation meeting where global experts discussed how to overcome these barriers. Throughout the meeting, the resounding message was clear: governments must act immediately in each of the areas above and must adopt a multi-stakeholder response. A set of recommendations to tackle the diagnosis gap was captured in a white paper.

The white paper acts as a roadmap, highlighting actions to be prioritised such as integrating targeted hepatitis testing strategies into existing services, making testing affordable and combating stigma and discrimination. Actions in overcoming the barriers require all stakeholders to engage in three main activities:

  1. Raising awareness
  2. Making testing more accessible
  3. Removing cost barriers to viral hepatitis testing

The role of civil society and the affected community

Civil society and the affected community have a unique and important role to play in addressing the barriers to diagnosing viral hepatitis. Civil society organisations bring fundamentally important perspectives and experiences, which greatly enhance the effectiveness of strategies and programmes. Meaningful partnership with the affected community can contribute to stronger awareness campaigns, strengthen innovative approaches to finding the undiagnosed through peer support services, help identify gaps within actions plans and offer a platform to address stigma and discrimination. Policymakers should harness the voices of those affected by viral hepatitis, recognising them as vital partners in the elimination effort.

Find out more about the role of civil society and the affected community in the white paper.