Up to 150 million people in China are infected with chronic viral hepatitis and hundreds of thousands die each year from complications wrought by the disease.
A new study led by La Trobe University researchers – Needs Assessment of people with Viral Hepatitis – China has found serious deficits in the national response to viral hepatitis - including a poor understanding of the infection within the general public, poor diagnosis process, treatment access, and significant stigma related to the infection.
Lead Researcher Jack Wallace says the report also uncovers the grave personal, social and economic implications for people living with the condition.
'Thousands are struggling alone with misinformation and despair.'
Most people interviewed for the assessment were diagnosed with hepatitis B through health checks administered by schools and employers. This means that they were told they were infected by a teacher or HR person, with few people being provided with accurate information about how to live with the infection.
'For the 93 million Chinese living with chronic hepatitis B and millions more with hep C, screening in China must be linked with coordinated support, care and treatment programs to improve health outcomes,' said Mr Wallace.
' That will happen by providing training and accurate information about hepatitis to employers and healthcare professionals as a matter of urgency and linking in with existing programs like those at established maternal and child health centres, and HIV prevention clinics.
'We also want to see the development of effective models of care outside of China's largest cities, financing clinical management and treatment through public health care, dispelling myths of hepatitis transmission and promoting the benefits of regular monitoring.'
The La Trobe study was commissioned by the Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific to provide personal perspectives of people with viral hepatitis, with an aim of developing good public policy to reduce its burden.
It identified common negative traits such as isolation, joblessness and poor health care in the experience of those living with chronic hepatitis B and C across China.
One- third of the global population infected with chronic hepatitis B live in China. The country has the highest number of new liver cancer cases as a result of hepatitis B and around 55% of global liver deaths happen in China.
Media; Catherine Garrett 9479 6565, 0418 964 325