Niue to become the first country in the world to eliminate viral hepatitis

Niue is leading in the world as the first nation to eliminate and cure its known population from viral hepatitis. 

A milestone for the small island nation leading a big example for the rest of the world. 

Since 2019, a New-Zealand based viral hepatitis elimination project and non-governmental organisation known as Cure-A-Country has been working with the Niue health department to achieve its goal of curing a nation from viral hepatitis.

BCN News was able to speak with two officials from the organisation who arrived on the island on Monday last week – Cure-A-Country founder Hazel Heal and clinical specialist in hepatology from Dunedin hospital Margaret Fraser. 

As the founder of Cure-A-Country and a patient survivor of hepatitis C, Heal has a strong interest in helping people who suffer from viral hepatitis worldwide. 

“I started a little NGO to work on global elimination and we wanted to make a model country to show how to do it right. And we thought that Niue should be the first country in the world to treat all its patients, the whole population, from viral hepatitis either B or C,” says Heal. 

Viral hepatitis B and C has its independent set of medications needed to cure an individual from the disease.. 

“The process is you need tests and then you need medication and if you’ve got hepatitis C, that’s one course of medication and you’re cured. If it’s hepatitis B, then you need lifelong medication to keep well.” 

“We’ve symbolically fundraised for this whole project cure-a-country for $US95,000 which is the price of a single treatment in the US for hepatitis C. We wanted to demonstrate that we can get on top of this disease effectively in countries that can’t afford that kind of money,” says Heal. 

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, the project was also affected but through careful planning and preparation between Niue’s health team and the organisation, it has become a success. 

“What I’m very happy to say is that Niue is the first country in the whole world to know the full viral hepatitis status of its people and is on track for being noted by the World Health Organisation as the first country to eliminate viral hepatitis.”

Heal says that the World Health Organisation has a target to eliminate viral hepatitis 2030 and Niue is the only country who has reached that target.

“It’s a real leadership thing. We want to show the whole world what Niue has done,” says Heal. 

Clinical hepatology specialist Margaret Fraser also shared how rewarding the experience has been to be part of a cause that aims to eliminate viral hepatitis and cure a country from the disease.

BCN News was also able to speak with Niue Health Doctor Eddie Akau’ola last Thursday.

He expressed his profound gratitude for the project which has immensely helped the Niue health team and nation to eliminate the viral disease in a cost-effective way. 

A great milestone for the island on its way to be globally recognised as the first country in the world to eliminate viral hepatitis. 

Fraser and Heal left the island on Monday this week.

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