Celebrated Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan, a Hepatitis B conqueror, was on May 12 appointed the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for the Hepatitis awareness program in Southeast Asia region. He says nobody should suffer from the disease. he actor said he has been living with Hepatitis infection for more than three decades and is committed to the cause of eradicating it from the country. “I met with an accident during shooting in 1982. Of the 200 donors who donated their blood, one of them had the virus,” he said.
The veteran actor has been brought on board to boost awareness and intensify action to arrest the Hepatitis epidemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced in a statement. “I am absolutely committed to the cause of Hepatitis. As a person living with Hepatitis-B, I know the pain and sufferings that Hepatitis causes. No one should ever suffer from viral Hepatitis,” Bachchan said.
In his capacity, the actor will lend his voice and support to public awareness programs that aim to scale up preventive measures and advocate for early diagnosis and treatment of viral Hepatitis to reduce the disease burden.
Announcing his association with WHO, Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO Southeast Asia, said: “This association is expected to help strengthen WHO’s efforts in reducing the high numbers of premature deaths and illnesses from viral Hepatitis which is not only causing hardships to individuals and families but also impacting health and development across the region.”
In a video message, Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda said: “Mr. Bachchan’s voice is one that is listened to by people across the country, regardless of cultural, social or economic background and can make real change possible. We have witnessed this in polio eradication.”
Amitabh Bachchan had earlier served as Unicef Goodwill Ambassador for the polio eradication campaign in India and has been supporting and promoting various health and related issues in the country such as childhood immunization program, anti-tuberculosis campaign and ‘Clean India’ initiative.
“It was alarming, 75% of my liver had been damaged. I am an example of someone who is surviving with only 25% of his liver functioning,” Bachchan said.
WHO officials present at the event emphasised on the need to detect people with the condition and making medication more affordable to people. “Only 10% of people infected with Hepatitis are aware of it. Most live with the condition for years without knowing it,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO, south east Asia region. “ Hepatitis B and C are prevalent among high-risk groups such as intravenous drug users and sex workers,” she said.