10 years of the Swiss Hepatitis Strategy: Much has been achieved, but much remains to be done

Around 40 people met on 25 April 2024 at the beautiful ‘Cercle de la Grande Société de Berne’ in Bern's old town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Swiss Hepatitis Strategy network.

News — 22.05.2024

The location was chosen because 30 personalities had met there for the first time in January 2014 at the invitation of Swiss Hepatitis’ predecessor organisation and the medical associations Swiss Association for the Study of the Liver SASL, the Swiss Society for Infectiology and the Swiss Society for Gastroenterology.

The event was moderated by Raoul Blindenbacher. He had already organised the first meeting. Thanks to the ‘Governmental Learning Spiral’ method developed by him, a multidisciplinary stakeholder process that involves all relevant players, the network was able to develop well and achieve important milestones. At the first meeting, for example, there was already talk of a national programme that would include the elimination of viral hepatitis. Something that has now been a reality since the beginning of the year with the NAPS, the national programme for HIV and viral hepatitis.

Former Federal Councillor Ruth Dreifuss was one of the network's co-initiators and was also present at the kick-off meeting ten years ago. At that time, the former Minister of Health suggested that synergies with infectious diseases such as HIV should be used to implement such a programme efficiently and in a way that conserves resources. Ruth Dreifuss was unable to attend this meeting, but she sent a message of greeting to the participants in which she emphasised the importance of the work carried out and thanked all those involved.

National Councillor and President of the National Council Health Committee Barbara Gysi emphasised in her speech that there are still gaps in the care of hepatitis sufferers. This is shown by a new St. Gallen study that examined patients in methadone programmes. According to the study, too many people in this high-risk group for hepatitis C have not yet been diagnosed and treated.

Andrea de Gottardi, Co-Head Physician Hepatology at Lucerne Cantonal Hospital, and also a participant in the same programme ten years ago, highlighted the success story of hepatitis C treatment. He also emphasised that there is still a lot to do.

Andreas Hüttenmoser, a long-standing peer at the Arud Centre for Addiction Medicine in Zurich, spoke about his life with hepatitis C in a moving interview with Swiss Hepatitis Managing Director Bettina Maeschli. The treatment he received in 2014 - after a 30-year history with the infection - changed his life and made his current commitment to people with hepatitis C possible.

Finally, health counsellor Athos Staub, as a member of the Federal Commission on Sexually Transmitted Infections, spoke about how concerns such as the Swiss hepatitis strategy can be heard even in a difficult environment.

Thanks to its activities, the network has reached an important milestone: with the NAPS, viral hepatitis has been integrated into a national programme for the first time. However, as all of the afternoon's speakers recognised: Much remains to be done before the gaps in care are filled and the elimination targets are achieved.

Bettina Maeschli