World Hepatitis Day: Optimism about eliminating this silent killer

Burnet Institute

27 July, 2018

There is growing hope that eliminating hepatitis is achievable in Australia.

While hepatitis C infects 70 million people across the world, an estimated 180,000 Australians live with a chronic form of the disease.

Many people infected with the disease are unaware of their infection status, leading to delayed diagnosis and missed opportunities to undergo highly effective curative treatments.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease that mainly affects the liver. In Australia, 90 percent of new infections occur in people who inject drugs.

Burnet Deputy Director, Professor Margaret Hellard said making available direct-acting antiviral drugs (DAAs) to all Australians with chronic hepatitis C infection through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme has been a ‘game changer’.

“Since becoming available over 50,000 Australians have been cured. If Australia can maintain high levels of hepatitis C testing and treatment, as well as high quality prevention and harm reduction programs, it will be one of the first countries globally to achieve hepatitis C elimination,” Professor Hellard said.

“The DAAs are highly effective with over 95 percent cure rates. They need only be taken for a short duration and have low rejection rates.”

If Australia can maintain high levels of hepatitis C testing and treatment, coupled with these high-quality prevention and harm-reduction programs, it will be one of the first countries to eliminate the disease.

Burnet Institute’s researchers and public health professionals are playing a key role in the scaling up of efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis in Australia. We are involved across a range of programs:

  • EC Partnership: The Eliminate Hepatitis C Partnership involves the establishment of community-based testing and treatment programs to increase treatment uptake among people who inject drugs. The EC Partnership brings together health services, government, community organisations and industry to strengthen systems for hepatitis elimination.

  • TAP: The Treatment as Prevention study is examining the feasibility of treating people who inject drugs in a community-based setting and measuring the effectiveness of using a social network-based approach.

  • The Prime Study is a randomised study comparing hepatitis C treatment in a primary health care service with a hospital setting.

  • The co-EC study aims to test, treat and cure gay and bisexual men infected with both hepatitis C and HIV, and measure the impact on hepatitis C infection and re-infection.

  • The Australian Collaboration for Coordinated Enhanced Sentinel Surveillance (ACCESS) is the only system in Australia that captures clinical and laboratory data on hepatitis C testing and treatment uptake.

Find out more about Burnet’s Eliminate Hepatitis C program and access our latest research Brief Reports.

Burnet and our supporters - The Alfred, Monash University and Australian Centre for Hepatitis Virology - are hosting a special World Hepatitis Day Symposium: Preventing Disease, Preventing Deaths on 30 July. Click here to register.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Margaret Hellard AM

Deputy Director, Programs; Adjunct Professor, Monash University, DEPM.




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