World Health Assembly Forced to Postpone Decision on Viral Hepatitis

    - Global Epidemic Kills One Person Every 30 Seconds and One Million
    People Will Die Before the World Health Assembly Meets Again in 2010

    GENEVA, Switzerland, May 18 /CNW/ - Ahead of the second annual World
Hepatitis Day, the World Hepatitis Alliance today called on governments not to
forget the plight of 500 million people living with hepatitis B and C, as the
World Health Assembly postpones discussion of a World Health Organization
(WHO) resolution on viral hepatitis - one of the biggest threats to global
    (Photo: )
    The 62nd World Health Assembly, starting in Geneva on 18 May, has been
shortened in response to the global efforts required to tackle H1N1 influenza.
As a result a scheduled resolution on viral hepatitis, submitted by Brazil and
entitled 'Proposal for the Establishment of a World Day for the Struggle
against Viral Hepatitis and other issues relating to the Disease', which calls
for action to improve hepatitis awareness, diagnosis, prevention, treatment
and support will now not be discussed until 2010 at the earliest.
    Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance explained that
the hepatitis community recognised the need for a concerted effort to tackle
H1N1 influenza, but stressed that global health leaders can no longer afford
to ignore hepatitis B and C. "Viral hepatitis has never been properly
addressed at a global level and the consequences have been disastrous."
commented Mr Gore. "Despite this disappointing postponement, we look forward
to working with both the WHO Executive Board and governments around the world
to ensure that a resolution is passed in 2010 and that a comprehensive,
coordinated approach is adopted before another million people die."
    Chronic viral hepatitis B and C affects one in 12 people globally and
approximately one person dies every 30 seconds, meaning that one million
people will die before the World Health Assembly next meets in 2010. Since the
hepatitis B and C viruses were first discovered in 1967 and 1988 respectively,
there has not been a single WHO resolution that fully addresses the challenges
of the global epidemic.
    19 May marks the second World Hepatitis Day, and over 200 patient groups
from more than 50 countries have been recognising the day by asking the
question 'Am I Number 12?' - an awareness raising campaign aimed at
highlighting the shocking statistic that one in 12 people worldwide are living
with either chronic hepatitis B or chronic hepatitis C. While this is far
higher than the prevalence of HIV or any cancer, awareness is inexplicably low
and the majority of those infected are unaware.

    Did You Know?

    -   Approximately 500 million people worldwide are currently infected
        with hepatitis B or C(1)

    -   This is over 10 times the number infected with HIV/AIDS(2)

    -   Between them, hepatitis B and C kill one million people a year(1)

    -   One in every three people on the planet has been exposed to either or
        both viruses

    -   Most of the 500 million infected do not know

    Messages of Support for the World Hepatitis Alliance

    The following people have provided quotes expressing their support to the
World Hepatitis Alliance campaign for a WHO resolution on viral hepatitis. For
further information please contact

    -   Dr. Michael Houghton, co-discoverer of the hepatitis C virus

    -   Prof. Baruch Blumberg, Nobel Laureate, co-discoverer of the hepatitis
        B virus and co-inventor of the hepatitis B vaccine

    -   Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate and global Economist

    World Hepatitis Alliance

    The World Hepatitis Alliance provides global leadership and supports
action that will halt the death toll and improve the lives of people living
with chronic viral hepatitis B and C. Through better awareness, prevention,
care, support and access to treatment, our ultimate goal is to work with
governments to eradicate these diseases from the planet.
    The World Hepatitis Alliance is a Non-Governmental Organisation
representing more than 200 hepatitis B and C patient groups from around the
world. The World Hepatitis Alliance is governed by a representative board
elected by patient groups from seven world regions: Europe, Eastern
Mediterranean, Africa, North America, South America, Australasia and Western
Pacific. For further information visit:

    World Hepatitis Alliance - Seeking a world without viral hepatitis B and

    World Hepatitis Day

    The second annual World Hepatitis Day will take place on Tuesday 19 May
2009, as part of an ongoing campaign launched by the World Hepatitis Alliance
in 2008. An entirely patient-led initiative, World Hepatitis Day in 2009 aims
to raise awareness of hepatitis B and C, as well as extend the political
support for the diseases to levels seen in HIV / AIDS, TB and malaria. The
long-term objective of the World Hepatitis Day Campaign is to prevent new
infections and to deliver real improvements in health outcomes for people
living with hepatitis B and C. The campaign theme for 2009 is 'Am I Number
12?' - designed to communicate the shocking statistic that one in 12 people
worldwide are living with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C.


    (1) World Health Organization. Viral hepatitis: Report by the
        Secretariat. (accessed
        May 11, 2009)

    (2) World Health Organization. Global summary of the AIDS epidemic. (accessed
        May 11, 2009)

    A picture accompanying this release is available on AP Archive:

For further information:

For further information: International, T: +44-207-395-7114, E:; International, T: +44-7920-202120, E:

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