TREAT Asia, Civil Society Groups, and WHO Coordinate Efforts to Attack Viral Hepatitis

In November and December 2017, TREAT Asia/amfAR organized two trainings on viral hepatitis B and C (HBV and HCV) and the importance of addressing these diseases in the context of HIV co-infection.

The first training of community members and treatment advocates from eight countries (Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, and Thailand) was aimed at simplifying WHO hepatitis B and C screening and treatment guidelines, and was attended by partners in the HIV/HCV drug affordability project funded by Unitaid, through Coalition PLUS.  

“Since many infected people may not know about hepatitis B and C, it is essential for us to build the capacity of frontline workers to spread awareness and find those who need care,” said Giten Khwairakpam, Project Manager for Community and Policy at TREAT Asia. “We also need to work with them on major national efforts to address these life-threatening infections.”

Participants at the training with community groups during November in Bangkok

“Building awareness of community and linking people to diagnosis and treatment—as well as building the skills and broadening the prescribing capacity of physicians—are important components in improving access,” said Khalil Elouardighi of Coalition PLUS. “As treatment advocates, we are excited to work more with TREAT Asia/amfAR in the coming months to bring together important stakeholders—such as community-based organizations, WHO regional offices in Asia, and WHO viral hepatitis collaborating centers—around expanding access to hepatitis C diagnostics and treatment.”

The second training focused on supporting the implementation of WHO guidelines on HBV and HCV at the national level, and familiarizing clinicians with the guideline recommendations. This was the first effort to bring together the WHO offices for the South East Asia Region (SEARO) and the Western Pacific Region (WPRO), along with WHO collaborating centers Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGI) in Lucknow, India, and Kanazawa Medical University in Kanazawa, Japan. The participants included 36 physicians of varied specialties from nine Asian countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam), who also provided feedback on the training materials developed so they could be revised and improved for future use.

Participants at the physicians’ training workshop during December in Bangkok

“To eliminate viral hepatitis B and C by 2030, it’s important not only that countries develop their fully funded national action plans but also that we establish collaborations across regions and ensure that all stakeholders take shared roles and responsibilities in this endeavor,” said training workshop co-leader Dr. B. B. Rewari, Scientist, WHO SEARO.

“It was a good opportunity to inform and share the indicators from WHO on monitoring and evaluating viral hepatitis programs. Although some countries are still catching up on establishing national programs, it was indeed a great bi-regional cross-learning program that will become more and more important as we progress further,” said Dr. Donghyok Kwon, WHO WPRO, who also helped lead the workshop.

“Since many infected people may not know about hepatitis B and C, it is essential for us to build the capacity of frontline workers to spread awareness and find those who need care.”

The co-leaders from the collaborating centers were equally enthusiastic about the training.

“As a WHO Collaborating Center on Viral Hepatitis located in a developed country, it was a learning experience for us to interact with the physicians and experts implementing programs in developing countries, and allows us to understand the successes and program implementation challenges,” said Dr. Tatsuya Yamashita of Kanazawa University. “This will help us to strengthen our work as a collaborating center.”

“Participation in the TREAT Asia Training Workshop on Viral Hepatitis was a great experience. Working closely with another WHO collaborating center, we were able to train several energetic physicians and public health experts who will lead the fight for elimination of viral hepatitis B and C in Asia in the coming years,” added Dr. Rakesh Aggarwal from Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences. “Importantly, we too learnt from the trainees’ vast experience and novel ideas.”

In the coming year, TREAT Asia’s hepatitis advocacy projects will further build local provider and community knowledge, and capacity for policy engagement in the global effort to eliminate hepatitis B and C.

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