World Hepatitis Day 2024

World Hepatitis Day on July 28 is a day to remember the million lives that are lost to viral hepatitis and to call for more actions to accelerate its elimination. Again this year, CanHepC reiterates its commitment to accelerating efforts towards the elimination of viral hepatitis in Canada and joins its voice to the World Hepatitis Day 2024 campaign under the theme ‘It's time for more action’ demanding for concrete steps to be taken.

So, where is Canada on the path to elimination? In 2019, the Public Health Agency of Canada estimated 204,000 people in Canada lived with chronic hepatitis C infection. Regarding Canada’s progress towards elimination targets, estimates from the same year showed that Canada exceeded its intermediary 2020 30% target for diagnosis with an estimated 76% of people who have ever had hepatitis C diagnosed. This means though that nearly a quarter of these people were still unaware of their current or past infection. Canada also reached its 2020 target for treatment in 2019 with an estimated 30% of people living with chronic hepatitis C treated.  In terms of prevention, an estimated 9,470 new infections occurred in 2019 which represented a small 2% reduction in new hepatitis C infections, a long way away from Canada’s 2020 intermediary 30% reduction target. These estimates emphasise our need to drastically increase hepatitis C prevention efforts including access to life-saving harm reduction services as well as testing and treatment services. Moving forward, post pandemic estimates will be important to have a more accurate picture as we begin to understand the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on access to hepatitis C prevention, testing, and treatment services. Indeed, surveillance data updates from 2020 show a sharp 39.9% decline in hepatitis C rates from 2019 to 2020 likely due to COVID-19 pandemic hepatitis C services disruptions. Access to updated pan-Canadian hepatitis C estimates from 2022 onward will be essential to accurately track our progress in the lead-up to 2030.

Elimination of hepatitis C as a public health threat is possible but will require coordinated action from all levels of government. On the regional stage, CanHepC is facilitating the development of six regional hepatitis C elimination roadmaps (and one national Indigenous peoples roadmap) which will contextualise the national hepatitis C Blueprint launched by the network in 2019. These roadmaps aim to build consensus on recommendations and practical actions to put in place to eliminate hepatitis C and track regional progress. Their development is currently underway, with the roadmap for Ontario launched last year.

Through our research program, CanHepC continues to be a leader in addressing new and emerging gaps along the continuum of care including work on vaccine development and long-term follow-up after cure. CanHepC also contributes to the development of indicators and measures of the care cascade in several provinces in Canada as well as for the populations concerned based on modeling studies using epidemiological and administrative data. These studies allow us to get a clearer picture of the gaps and measure our progress in the areas of hepatitis C prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Combined with updated pan-Canadian and regional hepatitis C estimates, we will be better able to understand where are the specific areas we need to focus efforts on going forward.