World Hepatitis Day, celebrated annually on July 28th, is an opportunity to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to recognize the discovery of the Hepatitis B virus in 1967 by Nobel prize-winning scientist Dr. Baruch Blumberg and his subsequent achievements in developing a diagnostic test and vaccine for the virus.
In 2021, a nationwide serosurvey providing information on hepatitis C (HCV), hepatitis B, and COVID-19 demonstrated that in 6 years, Georgia has been able to reduce the prevalence of chronic HCV infection by almost 70% in the population. These dramatic reductions in HCV infection have been gained through efforts to bring services closer to the patients and reduce barriers to make the promise of cure truly accessible to patients. The treatment sites have been decentralized so patients do not have to travel long distances to obtain care. The Direct Acting Agents are available for free due to enlightened policy decisions by the government and pharmaceutical companies, so that cost is not limiting.
- Testing has been expanded to make diagnosis and monitoring feasible for everyone
- Systems to support patients and ensure they do not fall between cracks in the system have been created.
- An Iterative process of review has been developed to ensure that the system adapts to persistent bottlenecks and to variable challenges.
The serosurvey also confirmed that Georgia has reached regional control targets for hepatitis B control. The introduction of the hepatitis B vaccine in 2001 has resulted in a remarkable decline of hepatitis B among children to extremely low levels. In Georgia, the highly successful Hepatitis C Elimination Program provides a model for many around the world to learn from.