'Towards eliminating viral hepatitis': A critical examination of the performativity of hepatitis C elimination goals and targets
In 2016 the World Health Organization published the first global health strategy to address viral hepatitis, setting a goal of eliminating viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030. While the field has been motivated by this goal, to date there has been little critical attention paid to the productive capacity and constitutive effects of this policy. How is governing taking place through the mechanism of this global strategy, and how are its goals and targets shaping what is made thinkable (indeed, what is made as the real) about HCV and its elimination? And with what effects? Taking the Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, 2016-2021 as a text for analysis, we draw on poststructural thinking on problematisation and governmental technologies to examine how ‘elimination’ – as a proposal – constitutes the problem of hepatitis C. We critically consider the conceptual logics underpinning the elimination goal and targets, and the multiple material-discursive effects of this policy. We examine how governing takes place through numbers, by analysing ‘target-setting’ (and its accompanying practices of management, quantification and surveillance) as governmental technologies. We consider how the goal of elimination makes viral hepatitis visible and amenable to structuring, action and global management. Central to making viral hepatitis visible and manageable is quantification. Viral hepatitis is made as a problem requiring urgent global health management not through the representation of its effects on bodies or situated communities but rather through centralising inscription practices and comparison of estimated rates. It is important to remain alert to the multiple makings of hepatitis C and draw attention to effects which might be obscured due to a primary focus on quantification and management. To do so is to recognise the ontopolitical effects of governmental technologies, especially for communities ‘targeted’ by these strategies (including people who inject drugs).