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Hepatitis can't wait

28 Jul 2022

 

People at risk of viral hepatitis infection across the state are being encouraged today, World Hepatitis Day 2022, to take the steps to seek testing, treatment and care as soon as possible.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said with testing for hepatitis C now easier than ever, the elimination of hepatitis C as a public health concern in NSW is within reach.

“NSW Health has committed to reducing the burden of hepatitis B and eliminating hepatitis C as a public health concern by 2028,” Dr Chant said.

“Viral hepatitis infection is one of the leading causes of liver cancer and can cause permanent damage if left untreated, but since the introduction of effective treatments for hepatitis C in 2016, NSW has treated over 33,000 people for hepatitis C.

“However, there are still around 40,000 people living with hepatitis C in NSW who have not received treatment.

“Approximately 80,000 people live with hepatitis B but with regular monitoring and access to appropriate treatment they can live healthy and happy lives.”

Dr Chant said World Hepatitis Day 2022’s theme ‘Hepatitis Can’t Wait’ is a call to people to access the very convenient testing options that are available and free.

Testing for hepatitis C is now easier with the introduction of dried blood spot testing, which can be done in the comfort of a person’s home with results delivered by phone.

Dried Blood Spot tests are free to eligible people over the age of 16 and can be ordered online at dbstest.health.nsw.gov.au.

In June, NSW Health released a comprehensive plan to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health concern by 2028 with the NSW Hepatitis C Strategy 2022 – 2025.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the new strategy is centred on prevention, testing, treatment and addressing stigma and discrimination linked with the disease.

"The strategy aims to reduce hepatitis C infections by 60 per cent, decrease the number of deaths linked to hepatitis C, remove the stigma linked to the virus and increase testing and treatment," Dr Chant said.

The NSW Hepatitis C Strategy 2022-2025 prioritises:

  • Working closely with key stakeholders to improve access to testing and treatment, including alcohol and other drug services, needle and syringe program sites, mental health settings and custodial settings;
  • Addressing barriers for treatment such as stigma and discrimination;
  • Creating a workforce with lived experience of hepatitis C, to offer support and education in the community;
  • Enhancing the collection and analysis of hepatitis C data; and
  • Improving access to services for people in regional and remote areas.

The NSW Government invested $6.2 million in services to strengthen testing, treatment and prevention of hepatitis C in 2021/2022.

More information about viral hepatitis can be found at https://www.hep.org.au/ or via a local GP.

See the full NSW Hepatitis C Strategy 2022 – 2025.