NEW YORK (360Dx) – The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics and the World Hepatitis Alliance announced today that the two organizations will collaborate on advocacy and communication efforts in support of hepatitis C diagnostics.
Chronic hepatitis C infection can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Worldwide, more than 71 million people are chronically infected, and approximately 80 percent live in low- and middle-income countries with only 1 in 5 people aware they are infected.
In a memorandum of understanding signed during the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) International Liver Congress last week, the FIND and WHA agreed to coordinate efforts and establish joint initiatives on national, regional, and global scales.
Specifically, the organizations will work through communication campaigns and advocacy activities to engage stakeholders with "demand creation activities" for HCV diagnostics, and to strengthen knowledge building and coordination among community-based organizations, according to a statement.
Key strategies also include simplifying the diagnostic pathway and establishing HCV diagnostic capacity within HIV programs, as approximately 2.3 million people are thought to be co-infected with the two viruses.
The WHA is a patient-led and patient-driven organization supporting 325 million people living with viral hepatitis worldwide. An international umbrella organization with more than 270 members in 91 countries, it aims to raise the profile of viral hepatitis and establish comprehensive hepatitis strategies in all countries to eliminate hepatitis diseases by 2030.
FIND’s work to support hepatitis C diagnostics is currently funded by Unitaid and conducted through the Hepatitis C Elimination through Access to Diagnostics (HEAD-Start) project, which aims to make HCV diagnostics more affordable and more widely available, with a focus on serving people co-infected with HIV.
"Joining our voices together to amplify the efforts of both organizations in the countries where we work will increase engagement with relevant stakeholders and ensure HCV diagnosis is on the agenda," said Zachary Katz, Chief Access Officer at FIND.
Michael Ninburg, president of WHA, noted that FIND's work on diagnostics complements the Alliance's efforts to find the so-called "missing millions" with chronic HCV and link them to care. "We will not reach the elimination of this global killer without a dramatic increase in access to diagnostics and testing," Ninburg said.