What do Pamela Anderson the actor, and Billy Graham the
wrestler have in common?
A quick search on Wikipedia will show you they both
are reported to have had hepatitis C. Pamela got it apparently by sharing a needle
for a tattoo, Billy by exposure of blood during competitions. Evel Knievel the
dare devil stuntman got hepatitis C after a blood transfusion. WHO celebrates World Hepatitis
Day on July 28th to raise awareness about this insidious disease
with the theme of 3 monkeys and the ancient proverb “see no evil hear no evil
speak no evil” to highlight how people are not communicating about this
Hepatitis C and B are chronic diseases, passed by blood or
other body fluids. Often symptomless for years they result in extensive liver
damage and cancer. Their silent nature makes them particularly difficult to
combat – people don’t make the link between the occasion they got infected and
the disease, and don’t find it easy to stick to treatments that feel worse than
their symptoms. On top of that, although
in many countries hepatitis B is a disease of childhood there is stigma associated with the infection in some
countries because it can be sexually transmitted. Both illnesses are associated
with injecting drug use.
The list of
celebs with hepatitis C on Wikipedia is one way of breaking the taboo to
get people talking about hepatitis C.
Airing the issue is important because less than half hepatitis C
infected people know that they have the illness, according to recent research.
While they don’t know they are ill they can be suffering liver damage and spreading the disease. Ignorance isn’t
There has been no better time to break the silence around
hepatitis because it is treatable and preventable. There is a vaccine for
hepatitis B that can be used from birth. For hepatitis C, new antivirals are on
the way that could herald a totally oral treatment with fewer side effects:
several new protease inhibitors as well as a viral polymerase inhibitor. There
are simple public health measures to stop disease spread too- safe sex with
condoms, use of clean needles for injections of any kind, screening blood
donations, mass vaccination.
In 2012 WHO established a Global Hepatitis
programme to prevent and treat viral hepatitis and world leaders recommitted themselves at the 66th World Health Assembly to taking action. The
Hepatitis coalition think WHO could
do more to make treatment more available in lower income countries- by making
some of the drugs part of the Essential Medicines list and funding better
See 'Latest research' page on Global Health Knowledge Base for selected records about hepatitis C from Global Health database.