Hepatitis elimination efforts are being severely affected by
the COVID-19 pandemic in many settings, results of a 32-country survey by the
World Hepatitis Alliance show.
The survey of civil society hepatitis organisations and
frontline providers, carried out between 30 March and 4 May 2020, sought
responses from World Hepatitis Alliance member organisations and stakeholders.
A total of 132 people representing organisations in 32 countries responded.
Approximately half of responses came from the United States.
Ninety-four per cent of respondents said that their hepatitis
services had been affected by COVID-19. Lack of access to testing facilities
was a frequent problem, reported by almost two-thirds. Forty-six per cent said
that facilities were closed but two-thirds said that people were avoiding testing
facilities due to fear of COVID-19 infection.
Treatment for hepatitis is also being affected, especially outside
the United States. Around half of respondents from lower- and middle-income
countries reported lack of access to medication since the onset of the pandemic.
In India and Nigeria, respondents reported that travel restrictions were
preventing people from obtaining medication.
However, avoidance of healthcare facilities due to COVID-19
was also cited by more than half of respondents in lower- and middle-income
countries as a reason for lack of access to medication.
Redeployment of services and healthcare staff to fight
COVID-19 was cited as another important reason for reductions in testing
activity and medication access.