Health Committee inquiry marks 2015 as year to turn tide on hepatitis C epidemic

A House of Representatives Health Committee inquiry into hepatitis C should be a catalyst that turns the tide on the rising death toll from hepatitis C-related liver disease.

Hepatitis Australia today welcomed the announcement of an inquiry into hepatitis C, a blood- borne virus that affects more than 230,000 Australians and will claim more than 650 lives this year alone.

“Many Parliamentarians are acutely aware of the looming tidal-wave of serious liver disease and preventable deaths caused by a lack of regular liver health checks and appallingly low hepatitis C treatment rates. Today’s announcement shows real leadership by the House of Representatives Health Committee to tackle the problem head-on,” said CEO of Hepatitis Australia, Helen Tyrrell.

Ms Tyrrell explained that hepatitis C has long been in the shadows, leading to an escalating burden of disease and preventable deaths. “Shining the national spotlight on hepatitis C is long overdue and hugely welcome,” she said.

Hepatitis Australia hopes the inquiry will set the path for 2015 to become a turning-point in the battle against hepatitis C epidemic.

“As we saw with HIV, a broad partnership approach combined with strong leadership by government is paramount to saving lives,” Ms Tyrrell said.

“If the new breakthrough hepatitis C treatments are made available on the PBS they will provide a cure to more than 90 per cent of people living with the virus. These new treatments, combined with an expansion of cost-effective and evidence-based hepatitis C prevention programs, provide an opportunity to make hepatitis C rare in Australia.

“Ending stigma and providing supportive environments in which people at-risk of or living with hepatitis C can access information, prevention and treatment services is absolutely essential if we are to make progress.

“We are at a pivotal moment in Australia’s response to the hepatitis C epidemic. More than ever before, we have the opportunity to make hepatitis C a rare condition in our lifetimes. This inquiry is a critical step in seizing that opportunity,” she said.

Ms Tyrrell encouraged Australians touched by hepatitis C to speak out and ensure members of the House of Representatives Health Committee fully understand the need for urgent action to stop new infections and prevent avoidable deaths.

For further information about ways people living with hepatitis C can get involved in making short or long submissions, visit www.aph.gov.au/hepatitisC 

Hepatitis C in Australia

  • Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that is 10 times more infectious than HIV and affects 10 times more people in Australia than HIV.

  • Around 233,000 Australians are living with hepatitis C, with approximately 8,000 new diagnoses each year. Around one in six people with hepatitis C remains undiagnosed, and only a fraction of those who are diagnosed – around one per cent – receive treatment each year. Without a significant increase in treatment rates, Australia faces a 230 per cent increase in liver-related deaths due to hepatitis C by 2030.

  • For more information about hepatitis C, visit www.hepatitisaustralia.com and www.liverdangerzone.com.au