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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

National strategy on bloodborne viruses calls for ‘meaningful’ partnerships

Health Industry Hub | July 9, 2024 |

Australia has been urged to accelerate action to eliminate viral hepatitis, with Federal Health Minister Mark Butler MP addressing a renewed push to curb the epidemics.

He spoke alongside Senators Louise Pratt and Dean Smith, Co-Chairs of Parliamentary Friends for ending HIV, STIs and Other Blood Borne Viruses, at last week’s federal parliamentary World Hepatitis Day event.

Minister Butler highlighted the need for further action on prevention.

“In partnership with affected communities, national peak bodies, peer and community organisations and the clinical multidisciplinary workforce, we are examining how to reduce the transmission of hepatitis C in the prison system,” he said.

“We are determined to explore new ways in which we can make a difference in those settings.”

Minister Butler also said the government was committed to funding hepatitis B elimination, with $7.8 million for a public awareness campaign and workforce training.

Hepatitis Australia Vice President, Frank Carlus, said ongoing investment was crucial to meet Australia’s goals of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030.

“Australia has been a leader in global efforts to eliminate blood-borne viruses. We have an unprecedented opportunity to end hepatitis B and C by 2030. Our task is to seize this opportunity and accelerate efforts to end these epidemics,” he said.

He further added, “We’ve worked closely with the Commonwealth and state and territory governments on new national strategies to achieve this goal. We look forward to the release of these strategies for elimination in coming months.

“Eliminating viral hepatitis will save thousands of lives. Any delay simply prolongs the period in which people are needlessly infected and need diagnosis and treatment to stay well. Accelerating our efforts now will end this epidemic earlier.”

Nicoletta Estella, who has lived experience of hepatitis C and is a Peer Community Development Worker, called for a stronger focus on community responses.

“A national response to blood borne viruses must include meaningful partnerships with people affected by hepatitis and continue a historical evidence based approach. Community-led harm reduction programs have saved countless lives,” she emphasised.

Nearly 300,000 people in Australia live with hepatitis B or C, increasing their risk of liver disease and liver cancer.

Chronic hepatitis B can be managed effectively with antiviral treatment, but three in four people with the condition do not receive regular care. About one in five people with hepatitis C, which is both curable and preventable, do not know they have it.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Scarlet Alliance, Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League, Hepatitis B Voices Australia, and State and Territory Community Hepatitis Organisations attended on behalf of communities disproportionately affected by viral hepatitis.

Sector partners including the Burnet Institute, Doherty Institute, and ASHM Health attended, representing researchers and clinicians on the frontline of efforts to eliminate the disease.

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