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FILE - Mexican Health Ministry representatives give migrants free shots for the flu, hepatitis B, tetanus, and preventible children's diseases at the Barretal shelter for migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 6, 2018. VOA

In advance of World Hepatitis Day on Sunday (July 28), the World Health Organization (WHO) is urging countries to invest in affordable treatments that could reduce the number of infections and save millions of lives. Hepatitis B and C are viral infections transmitted through contact with blood. Those two viruses cause cirrhosis and liver cancer and constitute about 96 percent of all hepatitis-related deaths.

The World Health Organization says hepatitis B and C infections affect about 325 million people globally and kill about 1.4 million every year. WHO’s hepatitis team leader, Marc Bulterys said that makes hepatitis the second most lethal infectious disease just behind tuberculosis.


“The number of deaths from hepatitis has been increasing over the past two decades,” he added. “What is worse, hepatitis has been a silent killer. Of the 257 million people that we estimate are living with hepatitis B infection, only about one in 10 has been diagnosed and only approximately 4.5 million people are on treatment.” Bulterys said of the 71 million people living with chronic hepatitis C, only one in five has been diagnosed and 5 million treated.

The WHO study finds hepatitis could be eliminated as a public health threat in 67 low-and middle-income countries by 2030 for a cost of $6 billion a year or a total of nearly $60 billion. These countries account for 75 percent of the world’s population. The WHO says new hepatitis infections would be reduced by 90 percent and deaths by 65 percent.


The WHO study finds hepatitis could be eliminated as a public health threat in 67 low-and middle-income countries by 2030 for a cost of $6 billion a year. VOA

When calculated on an individual basis, Bulterys said the cost of treatment is very cheap. He says the availability of generic drugs is making it possible. He says a three-month course of treatment for hepatitis C costs about $40.00 in India, Pakistan and Egypt, which produce their own generics.

Bulterys told VOA the world’s other poorer countries can buy the drugs for $89.00 through the U.N. Development Program and Gavi, a global vaccine alliance. However, he said the cost remains high in richer countries.

ALSO READ: WHO: Vaccine Slows the Spread of Ebola Virus in Eastern Congo

“So, a cure that in the United States just as little as two years ago cost $84,000, $1,000 a tablet for the three-month cure is now available for just $89 in these low-and middle-income countries that have access to generics,” he said. He added that the price has come down in the U.S. and people now can purchase Hepatitis C pills for about $18,000 under the U.S. Medicaid program in California.

As for Hepatitis B, he noted that a year of treatment for that viral disease costs less than $30.00 everywhere. That, he explained is because the patent on these drugs expired last year. (VOA)


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Rihanna was summoned from her seat to accept the honour, with the Prime Minister.

Singer Rihanna was honoured by Prime Minister Mia Mottley at an event which marked Barbados's new status as a republic, which was attended by Prince Charles. Addressing the pop star by her real name, the PM said: "Robyn Rihanna Fenty tomorrow morning shall have conferred upon her the order of national hero of Barbados."

Rihanna was then summoned from her seat to accept the honor, with the Prime Minister managing to rouse a laugh from the singer when she referenced her 2012 hit 'Diamonds', reports femalefirst.co.uk. She added: "On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you, the designee, for the national hero of Barbados." "And to accept on behalf of a grateful nation - you can come my dear - ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty, may you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation." Rihanna, who was born in the St Michael parish of Barbados, found fame in 2005 after being spotted by a record producer and has since gone on to become one of the most successful female artists of all time with sales of over 250 million and recently reached billionaire status through her Fenty beauty brand.

The Prime Minister continued in her speech: "Commanding the imagination of the world through the pursuit of excellence, her creativity, her discipline, and above all else, her extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth. "Having satisfied that, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty has given service to Barbados which has been exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attaining of the highest excellence to the Government of Barbados." It comes after a historic move for Barbados, which has become a republic after almost 400 years and welcomes its first president, Sandra Mason, after removing Queen Elizabeth as head of state. (IANS/ MBI)


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