Latest report on hepatitis shows there are still barriers to treatment
Stigma from health workers against injecting drug users is still a barrier that prevents people living with hepatitis C in Australia from accessing and continuing life-saving treatment.
The announcement comes in a new report by UNSW’s Centre for Social Research released today at the 10th Australasian Viral Hepatitis 2016 Conference on the Gold Coast titled Annual Report of Trends in Behaviour Supplement 2016 on viral hepatitis.
A second report from the Kirby Institute, Hepatitis B and C in Australia Annual Surveillance Report Supplement 2016, shows an estimated 227,306 people were living with chronic hepatitis C infection in Australia in 2015.
A survey of 405 gay and bisexual men found a lack of knowledge regarding testing and treatment for hepatitis C, with only 35% indicating awareness of a treatment that can cure hepatitis C.
Only 22% of people living with hepatitis C at the end of 2015 had ever received treatment.
The report also found that a person’s HIV status affected their knowledge and attitudes towards people who inject drugs and people with hepatitis C.
A survey of 416 Australians, who acquired hepatitis C through use of non-sterile injecting equipment, found experiencing discrimination from health workers lessened their likelihood of engaging in future treatment.
On March 1 this year a new PBS listing of oral highly curative (more than 90%) direct-acting antiviral treatments for hepatitis C saw an estimated 26,360 people receive treatment.
“Australia is witnessing the most rapid uptake of new treatments seen anywhere in the world, thanks to the unique approach we have taken in making the medicines available without restriction,” said Professor Gregory Dore from the Kirby Institute.
There were an estimated 232,600 people living with chronic hepatitis B infection in Australia in 2015, yet only 62% of those people had been diagnosed and only 6% had ever received treatment.
“Effective treatments for hepatitis B have been available in Australia for a long time, but we need to scale up diagnosis and treatment of people with chronic hepatitis B infection in order to achieve the national targets of 80% diagnosed and 15% on treatment,” Dore said.
The rate of hepatitis C notification in Australia has remained stable in the last four years (2012 – 15), following a 22% decline between 2006 and 2011. A similar trend has been seen in all age groups.
In contrast, the rate of hepatitis C notification in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population increased by 43% in the five past years, from 115 per 100,000 in 2011 to 165 per 100,000 in 2015. The 2015 rate is 4 times greater than in the non‑Indigenous population (40 per 100,000).