Interaksyon recently reported that the Philippines National Viral Hepatitis Task Force (NVHTF) has developed a strategic plan to guide hepatitis prevention and control. The plan, based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Hepatitis Program, would address viral hepatitis on four “axes”: raising awareness, promoting partnerships, and mobilizing resources; action founded on evidence-based policy and data; preventing transmission; and screening, care, and treatment. NVHTF partners included the Hepatology Society of the Philippines (HSP), the Department of Health (DOH), WHO, the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, the Philippine College of Physicians, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, the Philippine Society of Gastroenterology, the Yellow Warriors Society of the Philippines, and the Department of Labor and Employment.
According to HSP President Dr. Diana Payawal, approximately 10 percent of the Philippines population had hepatitis. Payawal estimated that most of the approximately 9 million hepatitis B- or C-infected Filipinos were not aware of their infection because the virus was asymptomatic for many years. HSP estimated that 7.3 million Philippine residents had chronic hepatitis B infections—more than twice the average prevalence in the Western Pacific region—and approximately 1 million Philippine residents could have hepatitis C.
Payawal stressed the strong association between hepatitis B and C and cirrhosis and liver cancer. She believed that the proportion of cirrhosis cases attributed to hepatitis B and C was higher in the Philippines than global estimates, which attributed 30 percent of cirrhosis to hepatitis B and 27 percent to hepatitis C.
Similarly, the Philippine DOH and the Philippine Cancer Society estimated that liver cancer was the third leading cancer overall for Filipino men and women, compared to the eighth most cancer globally. Liver cancer was the number two cancer among Filipino men and number seven among women.