Gold Coast: Thursday, 29 September 2016
New national statistics released today from the 10th Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference show that Australia is making great progress towards eliminating hepatitis C, with record numbers now being cured of the disease. The challenge now is how to effectively engage diverse populations in both prevention and treatment programs, and to overcome barriers in the health system preventing many people living with both hepatitis C and hepatitis B from coming forward for testing and treatment.
"Untreated viral hepatitis is Australia's leading cause of liver cancer and the fastest-growing cause of cancer death in Australia. Australia is unquestionably leading the world with its trail blazing approach to hepatitis C. By bringing together health professionals, researchers, policy makers and communities, and introducing programs based on latest research, we are now on track to making elimination a reality by 2026," said Dr Krispin Hajkowicz, Conference Convenor and Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine, University of Queensland.
"However, there is a huge amount of work to be done to link every Australian with hepatitis C with testing, care and cure, particularly those in diverse communities. Meanwhile hepatitis B is at risk of becoming the number one neglected infectious disease in Australia and urgently needs to be put in the spotlight."
Data released from the The Kirby Institute's Hepatitis B and C in Australia Annual Surveillance Report Supplement and the Annual Report of Trends in Behaviour Supplement 2016 on Viral Hepatitis found:
- Australia is on track to cure more people of hepatitis C in 2016 alone than in the past two decades with an estimated 26,360 people having received treatment this year.
- Overall rates of hepatitis C diagnosis in Australia have remained stable over the last five years.
- However, hepatitis C rates are actually increasing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, with a 43% increase over the same period. The rate in 2015 was four times greater than in the non-Indigenous population.
- One third of the estimated 232,600 people living with chronic hepatitis B infection remain undiagnosed, with only 6% receiving treatment.
- Both reports identified the need to address stigma and discrimination by health workers, and the need for innovative approaches to bring people forward for diagnosis and in to care.
The Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference is the leading multidisciplinary viral hepatitis conference in Australasia, bringing together the range of professions involved in the disease to address awareness and break down barriers to testing and treatment.
Key examples include specific training sessions for GPs and nurses, evaluation of new models to increase capacity such as nurse-led hepatitis C treatment in prisons, discussion of hepatitis B outreach testing models and presentation of latest international research.
"The Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference offers a unique opportunity to capitalise on the remarkable progress already made in Australia, and ensure no one is left behind," said Dr Hajkowicz.
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