The World Health Organization (WHO) and its Goodwill Ambassador for Hepatitis in South-East Asia Region, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, have welcomed India’s national action plan for viral hepatitis which aims to reach life-saving drugs and diagnostics to over 50 million affected people across the country.

“The process of detection of hepatitis is important. If detected timely, hepatitis can be cured and I am an example of that,” said Mr. Bachchan, a hepatitis B survivor who has been passionately advocating for countries to prevent, test and treat hepatitis. He was speaking at the release of India’s National Action Plan for Viral Hepatitis.

The hepatitis program in India is expected to benefit an estimated 50 million people suffering from hepatitis - 40 million from hepatitis B, which is preventable and over 10 million from hepatitis C, which can be cured.

Complimenting India for becoming the first country in WHO South-East Asia Region to release a national action plan for hepatitis, Regional Director Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, “India’s efforts are commendable and reflect the country’s commitment to health and universal health coverage.”

“Free drugs and diagnostics will help timely detection, treatment and prevention of disease complications. People would get themselves treated without any financial hardship,” the Regional Director said, adding that, “I look forward to phased implementation of these guidelines and their introduction at all levels of the health system and assure WHO’s partnership and support to India in eliminating hepatitis."

An estimated 257 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B and 71 million with hepatitis C globally. Only 5% of those with hepatitis B and 3% of those with hepatitis C have access to treatment. Twenty one countries account for 75% of global hepatitis burden, almost 15% of which is in countries of WHO South-East Asia Region, mainly in India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand. Nearly 40,000 people die in WHO South-East Asia Region every year.