Good and bad news for Hep C in Australia

Although rates of hepatitis C have dramatically dropped in Australia they are continuing to increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, a new report from the Kirby Institute shows.

According to the report launched at the 10th Australasian Viral Hepatitis conference only 22% of people living with hepatitis C at the end of 2015 had ever received treatment.

But following the PBS listing of new direct-acting antiviral treatments for hepatitis C earlier this year an estimated 26,360 people have received 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.

However, the report also revealed that while the rate of hepatitis C diagnosis in Australia has remained stable rates of hepatitis C had increased by 43% in the five past years, from 115 per 100 000 in 2011 to 165 per 100 000 in 2015.

This rate was four times greater than in the non-Indigenous population.

According to the report the difference in overall notification rates may reflect differences in injecting risk behaviours.

For instance, results from the Australian Needle and Syringe Program survey indicated that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were almost twice as likely to report recent receptive syringe sharing.

The difference could also be accounted for by very high rates of incarceration and hepatitis C diagnosis in this setting and higher case detection among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“There is a need for increased coverage of culturally appropriate harm reduction strategies targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in both community and prison settings,” the report stated.

You can access a full copy of the report here.


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