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27th July 2017

Bringing a human face to hepatitis

These days, the best way to rally support for an important cause is via social media…and selfies. That’s why the World Hepatitis Alliance has launched #ShowYourFace to stamp out the silent killer that is hepatitis.

The campaign marks World Hepatitis Day 2017 on July 28th, the theme of which is “Eliminate Hepatitis”. While this theme may seem like it’s aimed at health policy makers, #ShowYourFace is about real people like you and me, who can make a difference, too.

It personalises hepatitis ‒ estimated to affect 325 million worldwide ‒ by encouraging people to post their picture on social media using a simple selfie tool. “We want to bring a human face to hepatitis and make it relevant to your life regardless of who you are or where you are,” says Bridie Taylor of the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA).

The uploaded photos also allow people to include powerful statements that highlight how they are contributing to the goals of eliminating hepatitis. For example, a person’s messages can encourage others to go and get tested, a key component in tackling the disease. Undiagnosed and untreated, hepatitis can lead to chronic liver disease, cancer and even death. All it takes is a simple blood test.

Innovative products known as rapid point-of-care tests can diagnose hepatitis using a person’s saliva, fingerstick blood, venous blood, plasma or serum. They’re much quicker than traditional testing methods, giving results in as little as 20-40 minutes. Some lab tests can screen for all five types of viral hepatitis (A, B, C, D & E) at once. There are also devices that can simultaneously test for multiple diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Many don’t realise that viral hepatitis has reached pandemic proportions, claiming about 1.4 million lives a year, 96% of which are caused by Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV) according to the World Health Organization. A major problem is that few people with chronic HBV and HCV even know they have it and so they aren’t being treated. Mums can unknowingly pass the disease on to their children, and sexual partners of people who don’t know they have it can possibly contract it.

Other factors that contribute to the spread of hepatitis are unsafe injections and medical procedures, which can lead to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). One way to reduce HAIs is by using safety-engineered needles for injections, which can prevent the re-use of syringes and cut down on accidental injuries of health workers from needles. Proper sterilisation and disinfection of medical equipment is also critical.

WHA CEO Raquel Peck emphasises that eliminating hepatitis requires a collaborative effort on a global scale. #ShowYourFace is about everybody having a role. “No matter how small, it’s already helping,” she says.

People can also show their support by signing up for the so-called “Thunderclap”. Over 200 organisations and people including comedian/actor Stephen Fry have already pledged their support via their Facebook or Twitter accounts. Those who sign up will be part of a shared message at 12pm BST on July 28th to join the collective voice on World Hepatitis Day.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and start snapping!

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