Tackling viral hepatitis

The WHO has set the target of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030. South Africa has committed to attain this goal. This will require a concerted national effort, particularly among high-risk populations such as men who have sex with men, sex workers and people who use drugs. These high risk populations have historically been under-researched and underserved in the South African context.

We therefore expanded our focus to include viral hepatitis in 2015. Our work includes:

    1. Implementation Research.TB HIV Care led the BMSF Viral Hepatitis Initiative (2015-2018) implemented in partnership with National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the University of Cape Town (www.uct.ac.za), Anova Health Institute (http://www.anovahealth.co.za/) and OUT Wellbeing (http://www.out.org.za/) building on existing service provision in seven cities. The Initiative provided HBV and HCV testing, referral and, where required, HBV vaccination services, to men who have sex with men, sex workers, and people who use drugs. Results highlighted highest prevalence of HCV among people who inject drugs.  You can access the research findings here. 

The Initiative further:

    • Provided staff and stakeholder capacity building.
    • Developed referral networks. TB HIV Care has led the development of referral networks to relevant health facilities for people belonging to key populations who test positive for viral hepatitis.
    • Generated open source information and education materials
    • Provided qualitative insights into challenges related to linkage to care.
    1. Advocacy and results dissemination. TB HIV Care has taken a lead role in working with the National Department of Health to meet South Africa’s commitment to eliminating viral hepatitis. This has included disseminating research findings, providing expert input on key populations, and supporting policy development. Our work has fed into key national documents, including:
    • South African National Hepatitis Guidelines
    • Hepatitis Action Plan
    • National Drug Master Plan
    1. Innovation. Future projects that seek to provide accessible, low threshold, in-community access to screening, diagnosis and treatment for people who inject drugs are in planning phases.