New Report: UK is on-track to meet 2020 interim hepatitis elimination mortality target
Public Health England, an executive agency under the Department of Heath and Social Care in the United Kingdom, released a report entitled “Hepatitis C in the UK 2020,” a synthesis of the nation’s progress towards meeting the 2020 WHO hepatitis C elimination goals and the impact of COVID-19 on hepatitis elimination efforts.
This report indicates the United Kingdom has already achieved the global 2020 interim target for viral hepatitis elimination of a 10% reduction in HCV-related mortality. In comparison to 2015, HCV-related deaths have decreased by 25%. The decrease in mortality is consistent with the nation’s increased access to treatment since 2014. As of 2019, 38% of individuals who had been infected with HCV are estimated to have been successfully treated across the United Kingdom. The prevalence of HCV in 2019 has fallen by one-third to 118,000 people, since 2015.
Additionally, the report delves into a preliminary assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hepatitis services. In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, HCV testing and initiation of treatment was largely reduced, threatening the UK’s ability to meet the WHO HCV elimination goals. In April 2020, new diagnoses of HCV and initiations of treatment had decreased 82% and 63%, respectively, when compared to April 2019 figures. Access to needle and syringe programs (NSP) for people who inject drugs (PWID) was similarly reduced throughout the pandemic. Additionally, the report notes that there are still many unknowns related to COVID-19 such as the impact of social distancing on drug use behavior and hepatitis transmission that will need to be examined in the future.
The report concludes with the assertion that the UK is on-pace to meet the 2030 WHO elimination goal to reduce HCV-related mortality by 65%, given that testing and treatment scales-up appropriately. However, there is no evidence of a fall in new infections, which are primarily among people who inject drugs. Data suggests that approximately half of PWID were aware of their HCV antibody-positive status and around one-third were aware of their current HCV infection. Around 3 out of every 5 PWID in the UK (61%) reported having adequate needle or syringe provision for their needs, a figure that has not improved over the last 3 years. Given the low proportion of PWID who are aware of their infection and who report appropriate access to harm reduction services, there is an urgent need to expand harm reduction and testing access among PWID to prevent new hepatitis cases from arising.
As COVID-19 continues to impact the elimination of hepatitis C, new or adapted service delivery models will be implemented in the United Kingdom to maintain on track to reach the 2030 WHO hepatitis elimination goals.
Explore the United Kingdom HBV and HCV Data Dashboard.