July 28, 2011
David Bernstein, MD
Today is World Hepatitis Awareness Day. The World Health Organization, in a statement just released in Geneva, estimates that 2 billion people -- one-third of the world’s population -- have been infected with hepatitis. Injection drug use is prevalent throughout the world and is a common risk factor for hepatitis B, C and HIV.
A global study recently published in the Lancet estimates that approximately 10 million intravenous drug users are infected with hepatitis C and 1 million to 2 million are infected with hepatitis B. These numbers are significantly higher than the prevalence of HIV infection in this population. This study reinforces the global health problem that chronic hepatitis B and C present to healthcare and coincidentally has been published at a time when the WHO is meeting in Geneva to address the significant health problem hepatitis presents to the world.