Chronic hepatitis, which infects 10 times more people than HIV, should be given the same attention such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the World Hepatitis Alliance said Monday.
"Although it is estimated that 500 million, approximately one in 12 people are infected with either chronic viral hepatitis B or C globally, there is a serious lack of awareness and political will to tackle these diseases" said the group on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Health Organisation.
AdvertisementSome 1.5 million people die every year from a hepatitis disease, making it "one of the biggest threats to global health," the non-governmental group said.
"We need to give these diseases the same visibility as for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria," said Charles Gore, president of the umbrella NGO which groups 200 organisations of patients with hepatitis B and C.
One of the major problems encountered by the scientists is the lack of information at their disposal.
"There is no central source that coordinates these statistics on hepatitis," said professor Shivaram Prasad Singh, chairman of Kalinga Gastroenterology Foundation.
The alliance also launched a Hepatitis Atlas, calling on governments and organisations to provide relevant information and statistics.
In addition, scientists also highlighted the responsibility of governments not just on diffusing information on the disease, but also in policies.
"I was recently in Mozambique and I found that they do not screen blood used for transfusions for hepatitis," said Jean-Michel Pawlotsky, secretary general of the Association for the Study of the Liver.
Some 350 million people worldwide are infected with the hepatitis B virus, a severe liver infection.
It is transmitted by direct blood contact or other bodily fluids.
Unlike hepatitis B, however, there is no vaccine against hepatitis C, which affects 130 million people.