Wednesday, 28 July marks World Hepatitis Day 2021, an important opportunity to give visibility to, and raise awareness of viral hepatitis, as well to drive better outcomes for people affected by viral hepatitis.
This year’s theme is “Hepatitis can’t wait”, conveying the urgency of efforts needed to eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. Even in the current COVID-19 crisis, we can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis doesn’t care about other health crises. Left unchecked both hep B and hep C will continue to find new people to infect and continue to damage the livers of those already living with the viruses.
The good news is that recent changes to Medicare means Australians can have access to management, care and treatment of hep B or treatment and cure of hep C from the comfort, privacy and safety of their own home using telehealth. Even testing for hep C can be done at home using a free Dried Blood Spot (DBS) test kit ordered from dbstest.helath.nsw.gov.au
Hepatitis NSW CEO, Mr Steven Drew said, “Advances have been made in Australia and New South Wales on many fronts for both hep B and hep C. While much has been achieved through the combined and concerted efforts of community health organisations, clinicians, health departments, and researchers, we all agree that there is still much to be done to meet elimination targets in this country.”
In NSW, World Hepatitis Day falls within Hepatitis Awareness Week which runs 26-31 July. The week includes a range of local and state-wide activities, events, and initiatives to improve population outcomes for both hep B and hep C.
Mr Drew said, “A key activity this year is the roll out of HEP CURED, a campaign using simple messaging and strong imagery to promote the availability and effectiveness of cures for hepatitis C. The core message of the campaign instils a sense of connection with loved ones, or significant others.”
Three key posters were designed based on research showing the importance of “connection to others” as motivations to seek cure. The posters serve as conversation starters that lead to engagement around hepatitis C testing and treatment.
HEP CURED utilises posters in clinics and services, advertising in shopping centres and washrooms, laneway and regional billboard advertising, railway billboards, and selected bus shelters and street furniture.
Hepatitis NSW is also running a separate social media initiative featuring ten video and display adverts across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google. Each advertisement – be it about hep B, hep C, or liver health – links to relevant pages on the Hepatitis NSW website, providing information and resources on testing and treatment. This initiative aims to support the ongoing push to eliminate viral hepatitis.
Included in the initiative are videos featuring some of our many amazing and inspiring lived experience speakers. These people bravely share their own very personal stories and perspectives on life with hep B or hep C, and what management or cure, respectively, means to them.
Mr Drew said, “These stories are a powerful reminder that while we focus on the disease, at the heart of all we do and what we want to achieve, are real people. People with hopes, dreams, families, friends, and a desire to get the most out of life.
“I encourage people to contact the Hepatitis NSW Infoline on 1800 803 990 for more information about the treatment options available or hepatitis generally. You can also contact us using our online chat function on our website,” said Mr Drew.
For more information, please contact:
Steven Drew, CEO
0402 518 285
Published 28 July, 2021
General information about hep B and hep C
Tens of thousands of people in NSW are living with viral hepatitis. Both hep B and hep C are viruses that can, without appropriate medical intervention, 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, many thousands experience barriers to access healthcare, treatment, or cure – this must change.
With hepatitis B, while there is currently no cure for this virus, babies born in Australia are vaccinated against it. 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, regular monitoring of their liver health is strongly recommended, and, if required, treatment can be prescribed to manage their viral load and prevent the onset of liver disease.
For hepatitis C, all Australians over the age of 12 have access to effective and affordable Direct Acting Antiviral (DAA) cures. This year marks the fifth anniversary of DAAs being made widely available in Australia through Medicare. Since 2016, more than 75,000 Australians have been cured of hepatitis C. It is no exaggeration to say that 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.
Hep C medications have a cure rate of 95 per cent. They can be prescribed by any general practitioner, or 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.”
Testing for hep C is simple and as easy as getting your GP to do a blood test. Should someone learn they have hep C, they should seriously consider commencing treatment and get cured.
“It is not often we get the chance to eliminate a chronic disease, but we have that opportunity now with hep 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.