Tens of thousands of people in NSW are living with viral hepatitis. Of greatest concern are hep B and hep C – two viruses that can become life-long chronic conditions, eventually leading to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and sadly, all too often, death. A significant percentage of people living with hep B or hep C are unaware they have it. Even where people know their status, hundreds of thousands are unable to access healthcare, treatment, or cure.
World Hepatitis Day is an important event to highlight these issues and drive better outcomes. NSW Hepatitis Awareness Week starts on Monday 27 July, with World Hepatitis Day on Tuesday 28 July. A key activity for this year is the roll out of the bright, eye-catching artwork – wall posters, street pole posters, pull up banners, and pubs and clubs washroom advertising – throughout New South Wales. The messaging focuses on the availability and effectiveness of new hep C treatments.
For hep B, while there is currently no cure, babies born in Australia are vaccinated against it; also, any adult who needs to be vaccinated can be. Testing is available and encouraged for anyone from an at-risk group. Should a person be found to be living with hep B they can have regular monitoring of their liver health, and, if required, treatment to manage their viral load.
For hep C, all Australians over the age of 12 have access to effective and affordable direct acting antiviral (DAA) cures. Treatment is available through local doctors. Community organisations and government agencies work to raise awareness of the cure and help people into and through treatment.
Being cured of hep C can improve quality of life. Many people who have finished their course of treatment report feeling greater levels of energy and alertness.
Since the DAAs became available in Australia in 2016, more than 70,000 Australians have been cured of hepatitis C.
Hepatitis NSW CEO, Mr Steven Drew said the medications have a cure rate of 95 per cent. “They can be prescribed by any general practitioner, as well as authorised nurse practitioners. Cure is usually achieved within 8 or 12 weeks, with minimal or no side-effects.”
“These oral pill treatments have offered a revolutionary opportunity,” said Mr Drew. “It is important that people see their health professional to be treated and get their best life back. While hepatitis C initially has almost no symptoms, if left untreated it can ultimately result in significant liver disease.”
Mr Drew said testing for hepatitis C was simple and easy as getting your GP to do a blood test.
“We’ve all led varied and adventurous lives filled with new experiences. It may be that some, or one, of those experiences exposed us to the chance of hepatitis C transmission. The only way to know for sure is to see your GP to have a blood test for hep C.”
“Should you learn you do have hep C, please seriously consider commencing treatment and get cured,” said Mr Drew.
“It is not often we get the chance to eliminate a chronic disease, but we have that opportunity now with hepatitis C,” said Mr Drew. “I encourage anyone who hasn’t yet sought out this medication to explore their treatment options,” adding that Hepatitis NSW could provide information and support to anyone living with, or affected by hepatitis including family and friends of people living with hepatitis C.