Chronic hepatitis B affects more than 250 million people worldwide. This year’s Global Forum will bring together experts from around the world to update each other on the state of the virus on their continents and how they plan to implement the recent World Heath Organization (WHO) guidelines.
“One of the important things about this global initiative is to find out where we are with hepatitis B,” said Brian J. McMahon, MD, FAASLD, who is chairing the program with Mindie H. Nguyen, MD, FAASLD. “WHO has goals for the elimination of viral hepatitis B worldwide, so we wanted to put this Global Forum on to get some background information about where the different continents of the world are with their programs on hepatitis B.”
The vaccine for hepatitis B is available worldwide through Gavi, a global vaccine alliance funded by multiple organizations. However, in many countries, especially in Africa, a birth dose of the vaccine is not included in the Gavi initiative.
“It’s given in combination with other vaccines starting at about 2 to 4 months of age,” said Dr. McMahon. “If a mother is infected with chronic hepatitis B, there’s a very high probability of up to 90 percent that the child will become infected and then become chronically infected.”
Another important issue involves the influx of immigrants with hepatitis B, many of whom may not realize they have the virus. Dr. McMahon hopes that attendees of the forum will learn more about the importance of establishing routine screening programs for the virus and linkage to care for immigrants coming into their countries.
“It is estimated that somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of persons with chronic hepatitis B don’t know they have this infection,” he said. “They are asymptomatic and if they get into trouble they will present with liver cancer or failure, and then it will be difficult get their disease under control.”
Organizers hope the forum will stimulate interest in implementing screening programs and inform those from countries still developing their policies regarding screening, vaccination management, and treatment of hepatitis B.
The forum’s speakers are all active in their various organizations as well as very knowledgeable about what’s going on in hepatitis B in their region of the world, Dr. McMahon explained.
Anna S. Lok, MD, FAASLD, will speak on the North American perspective; Francesco Negro, MD, on the European perspective, Jinlin Hou, MD, on the Asian perspective; Christian Tzeuton, MD, on the African perspective; and Raymundo Paraná, MD, PhD, on the South American perspective.
“They’ll talk about what’s known about the prevalence in each of the countries in their region, vaccine policy and what proportion of children in their region receive all three doses during infancy, what proportion are not getting that birth dose, what proportion of patients are linked to care, and availability of antiviral therapy,” he said.
Dr. McMahon was Co-Chair of the WHO Hepatitis B Guidelines Committee. The guidelines were released in spring 2015, and at that time WHO asked each member country to come up with a plan for hepatitis B and C. AASLD has also published guidelines this year addressing chronic hepatitis B.
“Most countries are working on this and trying to come up with a plan,” he said. “This Global Forum is a good baseline to see where we are at around the world in planning for implementation of WHO guidelines.”
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm Monday
CC: Room 302/304