The World Indigenous Peoples’ Conference on Viral Hepatitis was held September 14 to 16 in Australia, bringing medical experts together to discuss the disproportionate amount of liver disease among native populations globally, as well as to discuss innovative solutions to reach out to these communities about hepatitis, according to a statement from the World Hepatitis Alliance, which helped organize the debut event.

Although there is a huge lack of medical data on international indigenous peoples thus far, available figures suggest that viral hepatitis is hugely prevalent in these communities. For example, a study shared at the conference shows that acute infections of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) are three times higher among native peoples in North America than the non-indigenous population.

In Australia, prevalence of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) among the indigenous population is also believed to be three times greater than the rest of the country. And a third study in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest found that 85 percent of the indigenous community had been in contact with the hepatitis A virus (HAV), while 56 percent were carrying hep B and 25 percent have hepatitis C.

Reports also show that indigenous people are far more likely to die from viral liver disease than the rest of the world. However, recent advances in hepatitis treatment, particularly for HCV, could provide an excellent opportunity to begin addressing these diseases.

The conference also emphasized that indigenous peoples must not be overlooked as treatment access discussions around the world take place.