Charles Gore steps down as WHA President

15 Dec 2017 Bridie Taylor

“After ten years as President of the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA), my term has come to an end and I step down at the end of this year.

As the World Hepatitis Alliance embarks on a new era, it also celebrates ten years of existence. And in those years, together we have achieved so much. From a little-known illness almost completely ignored by policymakers to a global commitment to eliminate viral hepatitis from every country in the world, the past decade has proven that a strong patient voice really can change the world.

Our story all started with awareness. Exasperated by the fact that viral hepatitis was such a little-known disease, we assembled patient advocates from across the globe and together agreed to establish a World Hepatitis Day (WHD). We then had to create the World Hepatitis Alliance to run it. That was all we initially set out to do.

Very quickly we learnt that there was much more that needed to happen. Without an official mandate, governments weren’t interested in supporting World Hepatitis Day. So WHA moved into advocacy. We mobilised patient groups from around the world and started working with governments to develop the first resolution on viral hepatitis.

In this way the organisation grew and blossomed into something much bigger that deals with policy both at a global level by working with WHO, governments and international bodies, and at a national level through our 252 member organisations as well as through capacity-building and support at a grassroots level. By doing this, we have achieved great things over the past decade. Together we have pushed through three World Health Assembly resolutions: the first made World Hepatitis Day one of just four disease-specific global awareness days officially endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the second pushed countries to establish national plans and finally, in the 2016 resolution, governments adopted the global strategy and, critically, the goal of elimination by 2030. 

We’ve achieved all this by working together, but it hasn’t always been easy. Viral hepatitis is one of the most underfinanced areas in health so almost everything has been done on a shoestring. Similarly, for so long viral hepatitis was excluded from the global health agenda. In fact, in 2008 before the rise of global advocacy in viral hepatitis, of the 8,000 people working for WHO, not a single employee had ‘hepatitis’ in their job title. The first resolution changed this and WHO set up the Global Hepatitis Programme in 2011. Yet, when I learnt that this would form part of the Department of HIV, I initially had concerns. Viral hepatitis had been overshadowed by HIV/AIDS for so long and I worried it would continue to be neglected. But I was proved wrong. In fact, by being part of this department, hepatitis got more resources than it otherwise would have received and helped us develop an extraordinarily productive relationship with WHO.

This was particularly evident at last month’s World Hepatitis Summit in São Paulo, Brazil. WHO put significant effort and resource into developing the programme and securing attendance from ministers and programme managers. This is a crucial aspect of the event and is indeed what makes the World Hepatitis Summit truly unique as the only forum where governments come together with us, the community, to drive the agenda forward.

By concluding my time as WHA President with the second Summit, I really am going out on a high note. Its success proved that it is an important event and it has set the stage for what we need to do now: to turn elimination from a concept into tangible action on the ground. Personally, it was also an opportunity to say goodbye to many of you personally and to thank you all for your work that has got us where we are today.

In stepping down, I know that I am leaving the organisation is extremely capable hands. With more than 250 engaged members working on-the-ground, a highly competent and professional team in London, an excellent board and the new president Michael Ninburg, I have every confidence that WHA will continue to lead efforts in the field and strive to meet the 2030 goal of elimination.

While I may be stepping down from the global stage, I will continue the work at a national level with The Hepatitis C Trust in the UK so, on that note, I wish us all every success in driving our efforts forward and making the elimination of viral hepatitis the reality we are all striving for.

Thank you.”

Charles Gore

WHA Founder and President (2007-2017)

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In this month’s hepVoice, Charles Gore shares some of his stand-out moments from his time as WHA President. Charles has also recorded a special video message from WHA members. Watch the video here.