Hepatitis B is a viral infection which is transmitted from the mother to the foetus, and by sexual and blood contact, and also by various biological fluids (transfusions, health personnel injuries, injections with dirty needles, scarification, etc). It is estimated that 5% of the world’s population (350 million people) are infected with the hepatitis B virus, and that West and Central Africa is one of the most affected regions, with nearly 10% of the population infected. In 2015, complications of chronic hepatitis B were responsible for 887 000 deaths from cirrhosis and cancer of the liver19. In children under 5, in addition to mother-to-child transmission, there is significant horizontal transmission from infected persons. The earlier the infection occurs, the greater the risk of progression to chronic disease, causing cirrhosis and cancer: 80-90% of infants infected during the first year of life, and 30-50% of children infected before the age of 6, will have a chronic infection (against less than 5% of otherwise healthy adults infected in adulthood). The vaccine is the keystone of this infectious disease and WHO recommends that this vaccine be administered to all infants as soon as possible after birth, preferably within the first 24 hours. However this recommendation is not yet widely implemented
- the expanded vaccination program does not start until the age of 6 weeks. For example, in 2015, global coverage of the birth dose was only 35%, with broad coverage achieved only in the WHO regions of the Americas and the Western Pacific.
While antiviral drugs are currently available to treat those infected, access to diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis B remains limited in many low-resource countries. In 2015, only 9% of those infected with the hepatitis B virus were aware of their serological status, and of the patients diagnosed, global treatment coverage was only 8% (1.7 million).
Solthis will continue its advocacy initiatives, and also hopes to develop projects to expand access to screening and treatment for people monoinfected with HBV, and to promote vaccination at birth.