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Voice for hepatitis patients

CHARLES Gore is the British founder of the Hepatitis C Trust and president of World Hepatitis Alliance, which pushed for an official World Hepatitis Day.

In 1995, Gore was diagnosed with hepatitis C (B and C are the most dangerous) and in 1997 with cirrhosis of the liver. Because he could not find accurate information and support, he set up his trust in 2001.

Gore has since worked extensively with patient organizations worldwide to press for coordinated global action, leading to creation of the World Hepatitis Alliance in 2007.

He shares his view on the fight against the disease with Shanghai Daily last week in Beijing.

Q: You used to be a hepatitis C patient. What kind of help did you need?

A: The first thing I needed was information. I found a lot of different information on the Internet but since there was no hepatitis NGO in the UK, I didn't know which information to trust. I also needed to talk to other patients and get access to treatment. That's why we set up the trust and a comprehensive website.

Q: How have you promoted awareness and treatment?

A: After I set up the trust, I realized that patients with hepatitis C also need somebody to speak to the government for them. They need to make sure that services were available. So I did it in the UK.

In late 2006, I was surprised to see so little awareness about hepatitis; that's the idea behind the alliance, just awareness.

Many governments didn't consider it necessary to have an official day. We realize we may need a revolution to achieve what we want - prevention, awareness, diagnosis and access to treatment.

Now we work with national governments to encourage them to put hepatitis strategies into practice.

Both hepatitis B and C are theoretically eradicable, we can take them off the planet ... If we can do it with smallpox, we can do it with hepatitis B and C too.

Q: What are the biggest challenges?

A: The immediate challenge is to get a global strategy, then a national strategy for every country.

We need this to happen in all countries because migration, the movement of people, is so common today. Every flight is full of people and they move more and more. Global infectious disease must be tackled on a global level. Everyone has to take part.

Q: What are the strengths of what you call the "China model" in tackling hepatitis?

A: China promotes a "harmonious" model of action. In some Western countries, the partnership is less harmonious because NGOs and patient groups have to force the government to act. That may not be a good model at times. The important thing is that no hepatitis program can get anywhere without the support of the government.


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