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Albury Hep C Elimination campaign

Over November 2019, Hepatitis NSW has been running an advertising campaign in Albury NSW, with some social media cross-over into Wodonga Victoria. This campaign is designed for people living with hep C – largely those over 50 years old who no longer inject, or who never injected – to help raise awareness and mobilise them into hep C treatment and cure.

 

Sussan Ley,MP for Farrer, and Albury local Steve Frost

 

What does our Hep C Elimination Campaign involve?

 

The campaign is made up of beer-mats in local pubs and clubs; adverts in shopping centres; adverts and take-away cards in public bathrooms; local social media posts; posters and awareness raising activities in public health services including Aboriginal Health Services, NSPs, drug health services, GP clinics, community health clinics and the like.

 

Why Albury, why now?

 

We chose Albury because a couple of years ago Hepatitis Australia (our national peak organisation) carried out a similar campaign. We want to build on that; and, because Albury is in the federal seat of Farrer, which is held by The Hon. Sussan Ley.

Direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) were listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) on 1 March 2016, changing the hepatitis C treatment landscape forever. The Commonwealth fully funded these groundbreaking new treatments, with equal treatment access for all people. There were no restrictions at all, and we have Sussan Ley, who was at that time the Health Minister, to thank.

Since then, around 70,000 people of the then estimated 230,000 people who were living with chronic hep C across Australia have accessed the new treatments. Tens of thousands of lives have been saved and livelihoods improved to the greater benefit of our communities.

 

Forum Speakers: The Hon Sussan Ley MP (Member for Farrer, and Health Minister who had new hep C cures listed on the PBS, 2016), Stuart Loveday (outgoing Hep NSW CEO), Dr Tim Shanahan (Clinical leader and key clinical driver for hep C treatment in the region), Steve Frost (a local with lived experience of hep C and cure), and Alison Nikitas (HARP manager, Murrumbidgee LHD).

Hep C Elimination Forum

 

Hepatitis NSW invited Sussan Ley to present at a forum on 18 November 2019 at the Atura Hotel in Albury. The main purpose of this forum was to generate some free media awareness to add to the paid part of the advertising campaign. We also wanted to thank Sussan Ley publicly for her significant role in enabling the elimination of hepatitis C in Australia by the year 2030.

Speakers included:

  • The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Member for Farrer, currently federal Environment Minister, former Health Minister).
  • Stuart Loveday, the outgoing Hepatitis NSW CEO.
  • Dr Tim Shanahan, a clinical leader, hepatologist, gastroenterologist and key clinical driver for hep C treatment in the region.
  • Steve Frost, a local with lived experience of hep C and cure. He spoke about how cure essentially saved his life.
  • Alison Nikitas, HARP manager for Murrumbidgee LHD, who spoke of programs to get locals treated and cured.

A number of local media outlets were in attendance, and an article about Steve Frost was written and published by the Border Mail. >>>CLICK HERE

We are running this Albury campaign with full support from colleagues in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (LHD) and in Albury Wodonga Health.

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Welcome from Steven Drew, Hepatitis NSW CEO

Steven DrewIt has now been a month since I took up the role of Chief Executive Officer at Hepatitis NSW, and what a month it has been! These last four weeks have been a whirlwind of briefings, meetings, introductions, and vast amounts of learning. Hepatitis NSW staff, and the many community and sector members I have met to date have warmly welcomed me, which I greatly appreciate.

While it was always going to be a challenge, to step in to lead a community organisation as highly effective and successful as Hepatitis NSW, I am determined to carry on the great legacy that has been created by the original founders, staff, and community. I am confident, given the passion, drive and commitment of the Hepatitis NSW Board and staff, we will continue to be successful.

I will be drawing on my many years of knowledge and experience of government, bureaucracy, and not-for-profit member sectors to advocate for programs and resources that will achieve the elimination of both hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Great progress has already been made in the testing, treatment, and cure of hepatitis C since 2016. However, as we all know, if the goal of elimination is to be achieved, there is still much work to be done to reach, and engage with, the so-called “missing majority” who are living with undiagnosed hepatitis C.

There is also an increasingly urgent need to more vocally advocate for enhanced and sustained action to reduce viral hepatitis infections in NSW, and to improve the health outcomes of people living with hepatitis B in NSW.

Finally, I would like to add my voice to the many others thanking my predecessor – Stuart Loveday – for his sustained effort and great achievements as leader of Hepatitis NSW over more than 20 years. I have had benefit from his knowledge, wit, and wisdom over the last month. I am truly grateful and, along with everyone else, wish him a great retirement.

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Mandatory Disease Testing a futile and stigmatising exercise

Hepatitis NSW firmly rejects the premise behind the proposed laws outlined in a joint media release – Mandatory Disease Testing for Those Who Attack Frontline Workers – issued yesterday by the offices of NSW Justice Ministers David Elliott, Anthony Roberts, and Mark Speakman.

 

Mandatory Disease Testing a futile and stigmatising exercise

The proposed bill won’t address risk to frontline workers

 

Hepatitis NSW CEO Steven Drew said, “Hepatitis NSW strongly supports the wellbeing and safety o

f emergency services personnel. We agree they must be protected as much as possible in a high-level occupational risk environment.”

Mr Drew said, “This proposed Bill will not responsibly address the fundamental issue of risk to frontline workers.”

 

There is no risk of hep C or hep B transmission through saliva

 

Any decision on mandatory testing should be based on medical and scientific evidence. The risk and likelihood of transmitting blood borne viruses (BBVs) – hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and HIV – through contact with saliva or spitting is effectively zero. Testing people who have not genuinely placed other people at risk is futile. The emergency worker may, in fact, miss out on health protections due to such a misinformed approach.”

Mr Drew said, “NSW has, until now, had a long and proud history of leadership in bipartisan, evidence-based, considered public policy responses that balance public health and individuals’ human rights. This proposed approach does a disservice to NSW as a national leader.”

 

Community organisations have not been consulted on the policy

 

Hepatitis NSW is extremely disappointed that this futile policy has been committed to by the government without consulting community organisations with history, knowledge, and experience in BBV responses. The policy will stigmatise communities and people affected by blood borne viruses, and potentially any frontline worker subject to the flawed response. There are no gains to be made for public health nor Work Health and Safety.”

 

Emergency workers are best protected by well-informed risk management

 

“This is irresponsible and is not conducive to the development of evidence-based, reasoned policy responses,” said Mr Drew. Frontline workers’ work health and safety are best protected by a well-informed risk management approach; this includes vaccination for hepatitis B and, where any blood to blood exposure risk occurs, a rapid assessment and response by medical staff.”

 

For more information, please contact:

Hepatitis NSW
Steven Drew, CEO
sdrew@hep.org.au
0402 518 285

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Use of Fincol in NSW prisons: preventing hep C transmission

FincolWe know from the ample evidence before the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’ that, like it or not, drugs and injecting equipment find their way into, and are used in, prisons. This is an unavoidable reality.

Hepatitis NSW strongly supports the ongoing provision and use of Fincol as a disinfectant in correctional settings.

Regarding evidence provided to the current Inquiry – and the reporting of that evidence – the impression has been given that Fincol is of ‘dubious efficacy’ when used by people in prison as a disinfectant to clean syringes and other equipment used to inject drugs.

Using Fincol is better than using nothing at all

We know that when Fincol is used as per the manufacturers’ instructions, it is effective in killing hepatitis C and other blood borne viruses.

It is not the efficacy of Fincol that should be questioned, but rather the circumstances surrounding Fincol’s availability and usage, as it is these factors which lead to injecting equipment not being adequately disinfected.

Fincol is not readily available in all areas in NSW prisons. Furthermore, when it is used, people in jail often do not have the ability or time to clean scarce injecting equipment as per the instructions.

Fincol poster

Excerpted from a poster produced by Hepatitis NSW for distribution in NSW Prisons to promote correct usage of Fincol.

Despite these shortcomings, it is far better for people in prison to use Fincol to try to disinfect injecting equipment as thoroughly as possible, rather than not clean the syringes at all.

A preferable solution: Prison Needle Exchange

What would be far more effective is the provision of sterile injecting equipment, on a strict one-for-one exchange basis, to people in prison who inject drugs.

To reduce the risk of transmission of hep C and other blood borne viruses in prison, a controlled needle exchange system is essential. Needle exchanges exist in prisons overseas, including in Canada.

We note that drugs are illegal both in prison and in the broader community. Regardless, widespread needle and syringe programs (NSPs) are available in the broader community and serve as a highly effective means of preventing the transmission of hep C and other BBVs among people who inject drugs, however they are not available in any prison in Australia.

There is not, therefore, an equivalence of health care provision between people in prison and people in the broader community.

Prison officers are at greater risk from accidental needle stick injuries, and potential HCV infection, with the current system of uncontrolled needle use, where syringes carry a high value and are difficult to disinfect, than they would be under a tightly controlled needle exchange program.

In the meantime use Fincol to disinfect injection equipment

While this debate around Fincol and prison based needle exchanges continues, it essential that people in prison be provided with the means to disinfect injecting equipment as best they can. Fincol is currently the only available means.

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Can hepatitis C be cured?

Image by Arturo Castellanos | flic.kr/p/9SMdayCan hepatitis C be cured? The simple, and happy, answer is yes!

New drugs, known as Direct Acting Antivirals (or DAAs), are now available in Australia through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and they offer a significant breakthrough in hepatitis C treatment. The previous form of treatment, a combination of interferon and ribavirin, is now history.

These all new hepatitis C DAAs – the brands of which sport tongue twisting names such as Epclusa, Harvoni, Marivet and Zepatir – are highly effective and have significant benefits and improvements compared to the old interferon/ribavirin treatment.

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New Hepatitis NSW CEO Announced

Steven DrewBoard President, Dr Denise Jarratt, has announced that Mr Steven Drew has been appointed as the new CEO of Hepatitis NSW, commencing on 1 October 2019.

Steven has held a number of senior appointments throughout his career. These include ten years as CEO of the Pharmaceutical Society of NSW and of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Limited (NSW Branch), working in the NSW Attorney’s General Department as Director of Crime Prevention, working with cabinet ministers and as a non-executive director on a number of Boards.

Dr Jarratt advised that Steven brings exceptionally strong skills and capacity in the areas of leadership, management, networking, partnership, engaging political engagement, advocacy, communication, strategic management and strategy development.
Steven will be working with outgoing CEO Stuart Loveday during a short handover period. Stuart has confirmed he will formally retire from Hepatitis NSW on 29 October 2019.

Stuart leaves with our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for 25 years of incredible service to Hepatitis NSW and to the communities of people affected by hepatitis C and hepatitis B in NSW.
.

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Being cured of hepatitis C a “huge relief”

Jase BellOver 24,000 people in New South Wales have started treatment for, and been cured of, hepatitis C since 2016. While this is a great achievement for our community, it is estimated that a further 57,000 across the state are yet to seek treatment and cure. That number represents way more people than it would take to fill the Sydney Cricket Ground!

Thanks to groundbreaking medications, elimination of hepatitis C is now an achievable goal, but one which requires the combined efforts of government, the health sector, and community to be fully realised.

During Hepatitis Awareness Week (22–28 July) and with World Hepatitis Day on 28 July, Hepatitis NSW is encouraging all people across the state who are living with hepatitis C, to take advantage of new easy-to-take and highly effective medications.

The medications, which have a cure rate of 95 per cent, can be prescribed by any general practitioner, and cure is usually achieved within 8 or 12 weeks, with minimal or no side-effects. These new oral pill treatments have offered a revolutionary opportunity. It is important that people see their GP to be treated; while hepatitis C initially has almost no symptoms, if left untreated it can ultimately result in significant liver disease.

Jase Bell, a Hepatitis NSW community speaker, said he was unsure how long he had been living with hepatitis C before he was diagnosed 18 months ago. “I might have had it for up to ten years, and I was shocked to be diagnosed because I had no idea at all,” Jase said. “Fortunately, I was able to be treated and cured within a few short months. It was a huge relief, a great weight lifted off my shoulders.”

With so many people cured it is encouraging that progress has been made in reaching the NSW goal of eliminating hepatitis C across the state by 2028, but now is not the time to rest. It is essential that anyone who believes they may be living with hepatitis C, strongly consider commencing treatment, and get themselves cured. It’s equally important for all GPs across NSW to also join the effort if they haven’t already done so.

“I would absolutely recommend the cures to anyone living with hep C,” said Jase. “Just do it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

More info: 1800 803 990

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Cheryl Burman Award winners since 2013

Cheryl BurmanThe Cheryl Burman Award is an annual recognition by Hepatitis NSW that acknowledges outstanding commitments, by individuals or organisations, towards improving the life of people living with viral hepatitis.

The award itself is named after Cheryl Burman (left), who was a former Board member and President of the Hepatitis C Council of NSW (now Hepatitis NSW). Sadly she died in 2011 after a long and arduous struggle with hepatitis C related liver disease.

Here are all winners since the Award’s inception in 2013.

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My Health Record: Information about your options

There is a new medical record system called My Health Record. It is an online database designed to keep all your medical records in one place, operated by the Australian Government. The link below describes the benefits and risks to help you make an informed decision, and talks about how to opt out if you do not want a My Health Record.

If you don’t want a My Health Record, you can choose to opt-out. The deadline is 31 January 2019.

If you want a My Health Record, you don’t need to do anything. After 31 January 2019, health services will upload the past two years of your Medicare and pharmacy records into the system. Already, 6.3 million people have a My Health Record. After 31 January 2019, you can delete your record permanently at any time.

For more details, see www.hep.org.au/my-health-record-information-about-your-options/

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Gail Snelgar wins 2018 Hepatitis NSW Cheryl Burman Award

Hepatitis NSW is delighted to announce that Ms Gail Snelgar is the 2018 winner of our Annual Cheryl Burman Award, which acknowledges outstanding work or achievements by an individual or team in NSW within the viral hepatitis sector.

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