The case for simplifying and using absolute targets for viral hepatitis elimination goals.
- HIV Clinical and Translational Research
The 69th World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Health Sector Strategy for Viral Hepatitis, embracing a goal to eliminate hepatitis infection as a public health threat by 2030. This was followed by the World Health Organization's (WHO) global targets for the care and management of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. These announcements and targets were important in raising awareness and calling for action; however, tracking countries' progress towards these elimination goals has provided insights to the limitations of these targets. The existing targets compare a country's progress relative to its 2015 values, penalizing countries who started their programmes prior to 2015, countries with a young population, or countries with a low prevalence. We recommend that (1) WHO simplify the hepatitis elimination targets, (2) change to absolute targets and (3) allow countries to achieve these disease targets with their own service coverage initiatives that will have the maximum impact. The recommended targets are as follows: reduce HCV new chronic cases to </=5 per 100 000, reduce HBV prevalence among 1-year-olds to </=0.1%, reduce HBV and HCV mortality to </=5 per 100 000, and demonstrate HBV and HCV year-to-year decrease in new HCV- and HBV-related HCC cases. The objective of our recommendations is not to lower expectations or diminish the hepatitis elimination standards, but to provide clearer targets that recognize the past and current elimination efforts by countries, help measure progress towards true elimination, and motivate other countries to follow suit.