Taiwan, Asia-Pacific nations form anti-hepatitis alliance

The China Post news staff

The Coalition for the Eradication of Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific (CEVHAP) was established yesterday to jointly combat widespread hepatitis in the region. Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) is planning to administer hepatitis B tests for all adults over the age of 40 free of charge. Taiwan became a co-founder of the regional organization along with Australia and several other Asia-Pacific nations. Chen Ding-shin, a member of the Academia Sinica, and Australian medical researcher Stephen Locarnini at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, have teamed up to push for the birth of CEVHAP for years.

Other member nations include Japan and Indonesia. Chen, who formerly served as superintendent of the National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei, said there are 360 million hepatitis B virus (HBV) carriers around the world and 75 percent of them live in Asia. Eradicating hepatitis B, which may lead to chronic liver disease and claim countless lives, is a daunting task but not impossible, according to Chen. Based on Taiwan’s experience, the spread of hepatitis B virus can be controlled, he emphasized. Under Chen’s leadership, Taiwan became the first nation in the world to give all newborn babies hepatitis B vaccines in 1984. Chen said the establishment of the regional CEVHAP is a big step forward in Taiwan’s public health history. Close cooperation among member nations will help obtain the goal of eliminating hepatitis B in the area, he said. DOH officials said there are still an estimated 3 million HBV carriers in Taiwan. They said they will consider a proposal from Chen and other specialists to include hepatitis B tests into the free-of-charge physical examination for all adults over the age of 40 under the National Health Insurance program. If all goes well, the program can be launched in April 2011, they added.