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Medics lay foundations for regional network to combat hepatitis

More than 100 researchers and health professionals from Asean country members and their development partners are meeting in Vientiane this week to discuss the control of hepatitis B and elimination of hepatitis C.
Participants come from Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, Australia, France and, China.
The symposium brings together international experts to lay the foundations for a regional network to fight chronic hepatitis, a major public health issue in the Greater Mekong River Basin.
The final day of the symposium will be devoted to real-life practice, guidelines and research and feature a round table on the countries’ recommendations regarding international reference guidelines.
Among those leading the meeting are the Deputy Director General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control under the Ministry of Health, Dr Sisavath Southanilaxay, and French Ambassador to Laos, Mrs Florence Jeanblanc-Risler.
The participants have encouraged national and regional policy-makers to increase their political and financial commitments to the fight against hepatitis.
The meeting now provides an opportunity for experts to continue the discussions initiated at previous gatherings, share knowledge and compare data.
Major organisations such as Inserm, Institut Pasteur, Médecins Sans Frontières and WHO, as well as representatives of the Ministries of Health of participating countries, are presenting the latest advances and challenges encountered in their fight against hepatitis.
The topics are being approached through seven thematic sessions dedicated to chronic viral hepatitis, from innovations in patient care to new challenges. Several successful studies and initiatives to eliminate the hepatitis C virus in different countries will also be presented.
Viral hepatitis B and C are major threats to public health. They affect more than 320 people worldwide (250 million for hepatitis B and 71 million for hepatitis C), causing 1.4 million deaths a year. Hepatitis has become the number one deadly infectious disease, ahead of tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria.
Hepatitis B and C are responsible for tor more than 80 percent of hepatocarcinomas (primary liver cancers) worldwide, particularly in Asia and Africa. Hepatocarcinoma is the fastest growing cancer in the world. Hepatitis can be prevented, treated and, in the case of hepatitis C, cured. However, more than 80 percent of people with hepatitis do not have access to prevention, screening or treatment services.
One of the most significant paradoxes around hepatitis is that  the cost of treatment has dropped dramatically in developing countries due to generic drugs, but it is now the cost of diagnoses that is becoming a limiting factor.

By Phetphoxay Sengaseuth
(Latest Update November 29, 2019)

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