INHSU Africa, a historic meeting of researchers, policy makers, politicians and advocates to plan for the elimination of viral hepatitis for people who use drugs has commenced today with a planning session for advocates across the African region.
Over 70 advocates and policy makers have gathered today to examine the evidence around the challenges in connecting people who use drugs to harm reduction services (including needle and syringe exchange programs and opioid replacement therapy) and hepatitis C treatment and care in countries across the African region.
These advocates are working to reverse the trend that sees viral hepatitis is the seventh leading cause of death worldwide. These advocates know that urgent action is needed to enable the African region to meet the World Health Organisation’s global target of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030. These advocates also know that delays are causing people to lose their lives. As Connie van Staden, from the South African Network of People who Use Drugs shared with the meeting today, lack of access to care has resulted in the loss of lives of 69 of his friends and colleagues in the last month alone.
This event has provided an opportunity to share learnings and work together to identify action that can be rolled out across the region more broadly. This group of advocates and champions recognise the need to build on country learnings to scale up action and response to harm reduction services hepatitis C prevention, treatment and care for people who use drugs.
Key priorities that have been identified by these advocates include working to reduce stigma and discrimination and funding to support community capacity building. There is agreement that solutions should be community-led and involve groups that are impacted by drug use and hepatitis C. Peer-led services and interventions remain one of the most powerful and effective way to respond to these issues. Scaling up hepatitis prevention (including harm reduction services) and treatment can be a pathway to responding to a range of health needs for people who use drugs
The President of the International Network for Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU), who is hosting the event, Jason Grebely said “This day has been a great success in providing the opportunity for community-based advocates and other stakeholders to share successes and challenges around improving the health of people who use drugs. We look forward to the outcomes of today’s discussion to inform the rest of this important event”.