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Harm Reduction 2023 International Conference and pre-conference on viral hepatitis and harm reduction

Main conference

Harm Reduction International is holding HR23 in Melbourne, Australia, at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre on 16-19 April 2023.

You can still register to attend the Harm Reduction International Conference #HR23 in person or virtually.

We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

Pre-conference on viral hepatitis and harm reduction

Hepatitis Australia is proud to co-organise this pre-conference event for the Harm Reduction International Conference 2023 taking place in Melbourne this April.

‘HR23 pre-conference on viral hepatitis and harm reduction’ will be held the day before the conference starts, on Saturday 15 April from 10am-4pm at the Doherty Institute Auditorium. This is a FREE in-person event with no virtual component.

The event will convene experts in viral hepatitis to exchange information around the significant current opportunities to advance viral hepatitis testing and treatment amongst people who use drugs, with a view to contributing to the WHO’s 2030 goal to eliminate hepatitis C and hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C self-testing builds momentum

Informed by HIV self-testing success and community-wide acceptance and uptake of COVID-19 (rapid antigen tests – RATs) self-testing, there is a growing momentum internationally and in Australia behind self-testing for hepatitis C as part of a broader suite of testing approaches and strategies.

According to the WHO “self-testing is a vital tool to help people know their infectious disease status, offering individuals an alternative pathway to accessing treatment and effective prevention interventions”.

Noting that self-testing can accelerate progress towards elimination goals, in 2021 the WHO launched Recommendations and guidance on hepatitis C virus self-testing providing a new recommendation and guidance on hepatitis C self-testing, and highlighting operational considerations to support strategic implementation and scale-up.

Text based image - copy found on link above.

On 20 February 2023 Hepatitis Australia and the Kirby Institute convened a National Roundtable with state and territory community hepatitis organisations, researchers and other key informants to share and build knowledge, generate ideas and explore opportunities for hepatitis C self-testing in Australia. Key aspects discussed were the current context, regulatory environment, technology pipeline, potential target populations and settings, innovative implementation models, and next steps in advocacy and action including the upcoming National Hepatitis Strategies public consultation.

Key messages include:

  • Hepatitis C self-testing can strengthen the national response by providing additional testing strategies to engage with people living with or at risk of hepatitis C who are not being reached by existing approaches. Self-testing can help us leave no one behind.
  • All aspects of hepatitis C self-testing must be community-led and driven (i.e., in development, adaptation, implementation, and monitoring/evaluation).
  • The next National Hepatitis C Strategy 2023-2030 must leverage opportunities presented by hepatitis C self-testing, as part of a broader suite of testing approaches and strategies.

On 28 March 2023, a World Hepatitis Alliance member seminar provided updates on hepatitis C self-testing including the most recent research, WHO perspectives, and product market updates. Regional members and researchers discussed hepatitis C self-testing in real-world situations to better understand the impact on uptake of testing, linkage to treatment, and costs.

Hepatitis Australia will circulate a link to a recording when one becomes available.

$2M for hepatitis C point-of-care testing

Announced on Wednesday 13 March 2023, the Kirby Institute received $2 million through Medical Research Future Fund's Clinical Trials Activity scheme to undertake research aimed to enhance testing and treatment for hepatitis C.

“Australia could be one of the first countries in the world to eliminate hepatitis C, however increasing testing and treatment uptake will be essential to achieve the goals set by the WHO,” says Prof Jason Grebely from the Kirby Institute, the chief investigator on this grant. “Currently, testing and treatment is hampered because existing pathways require multiple healthcare visits.”

The Kirby Institute-led team will evaluate novel hepatitis C point-of-care testing strategies to optimise scale-up of hepatitis C testing and treatment in Australia. This includes a new one-minute point of care HCV antibody test and a point-of-care RNA test that can detect active hepatitis C infection in one hour, enabling same-visit diagnosis and treatment.

“This will be crucial to assess the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and acceptability of point-of-care hepatitis C testing strategies,” says Prof Grebely. “(We) will develop an implementation toolkit and plan to facilitate scale-up of optimal point-of-care HCV testing strategies nationally and internationally to ensure our findings directly improve health outcomes in people with chronic HCV infection.”

Hepatitis Australia provided a letter of support for the grant application and is pleased to be a project partner.

Find out more:

2023 Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) International Meeting registrations and abstract submissions open

We are excited that the 2023 HBV International Meeting will be held in our region and look forward to again supporting the HBV Community Forum.

The HBV International Meeting, coordinated by the Hepatitis B Foundation, is an influential international conference that promises to feature:

  • Cutting-edge studies in hepatitis B and hepatitis D viruses,
  • Development of new technologies and analytical methods for understanding HBV and HDV infection,
  • Joint discussion on the latest therapeutic development with patients and clinicians,
  • Opportunities to network with the HBV/HDV community for all career stages, and
  • A platform for trainees (graduate students and post-docs) to showcase their studies.

General Abstracts

A recording of the 2022 HBV International Meeting 3rd Annual Community Forum, 22 September 2022, Paris France is now available online.

Calls for harm reduction strategies in Australian Prisons

On 14 March 2023, the Harm Reduction in Prisons Working Group released a consensus statement Strengthening injecting-related harm reduction in prisons outlining an evidence-based approach to reducing the spread of blood borne viruses and other injecting-related harms in prisons. The Working Group is a national cohort of health practitioners, researchers, sector representatives and advocates (including Hepatitis Australia) and is convened by the Social Policy Research Centre’s Drug Policy Modelling Program at UNSW Sydney.

Prisons are high-risk environments for the transmission of BBVs, including because of a lack of access to new and sterile injecting equipment, which results in people sharing unsterile equipment. Consequently, people in prisons continue to experience higher rates of hepatitis C and HIV than the general population.

Australia has committed to eliminating hepatitis C by 2030, but right now prisons are the weakest link in the strategy to meet this goal. Prison settings provide an opportunity to engage people who have a history of injecting drug use and that health and wellbeing services may not have previously been able to access in the community. But we cannot afford to continue to overlook harm reduction. Harm reduction interventions not only make prisons safer, but they also help to ensure better health outcomes for the communities to which people are returning after their release.

The consensus statement can assist policymakers at all levels of government in applying a broad and comprehensive approach to harm reduction, in prisons and outside of prisons too.

Read the consensus statement.

Read the media release.

ASHM launches REACH-B Advice for hepatitis B s100 prescribing clinicians.

REACH-B Advice enables hepatitis B s100 prescribing clinicians to submit an online form and access within 48 hours specialist reviews and advice about hepatitis B treatment and management.

Prescribers can use the form multiple times for different cases or questions and receive a PDF of the completed form upon submission. Patient data is de-identified and collected for the REACH-B Study (collecting demographic and clinical data to better understand hepatitis B care and treatment needs).

Please note this form is not for use by community members or general clinicians.

Access the form here:

Read the Australian Human Rights Commission Factsheet about the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March)

21 March marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD), sometimes known as ‘Harmony Day’ in Australia. However, hiding the true meaning of this day under a mask of ‘harmony’ actively harms our collective anti-racism journey by obscuring structural and systemic racism. This Australian Human Rights Commission fact sheet explains why.

Find out more about IDERD here.

You can get involved here in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s campaign: Racism. It Stops with Me.

Systemic and structural racism perpetuates the hepatitis B and hepatitis C epidemics. Hepatitis Australia continues to call for anti-racism strategies to be included in Australia's new national hepatitis strategies.

Video: Decentralisation of services for hepatitis B and hepatitis C in Asia Pacific

NoHep Medical Visionaries Forum presented a discussion around how we can deliver services that better reach affected communities, with leading medical professionals and advocates.

Following a welcome from Cary James, CEO of the World Hepatitis Alliance, hear presentations on:

  • Opportunities for decentralising hepatitis B care - Dr. Holden Hsu (Director, Center for Liver Diseases, E-Da Hospital and Associate Professor, I-Shou University)
  • Elimination of hepatitis C in Taiwan and the efforts and role of NGOs - Professor Chia-Yen Dai (Taiwan Liver Cancer Association)
  • Harnessing public-private partnerships for viral hepatitis elimination - Professor Saeed Hamid (Professor of Medicine and Director, Clinical Trials Unit, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan)
  • Treatment decentralisation and access to care for viral hepatitis - a patient’s perspective - Jacki Chen (Founder & Director of Taiwan Hepatitis Information & Care Association (THICA) and Professor, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Jersey)

Watch now:

Evidence of injecting drug use found in 190 countries: global review

Evidence of increasing injecting drug use at a global level highlights the need for improved coverage of interventions to prevent and manage drug-related harms among people who inject drugs (PWID), say two new reviews led by researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) and the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney.

The two reviews, published in Lancet Global Health, provide evidence on the global picture of injecting drug use, and the availability of harm reduction programs, including needle and syringe exchange programmes (NSPs), opioid agonist treatment, and other harm reduction services that target PWID such as supervised consumption facilities, drug checking services, and take-home naloxone (THN) programmes.

People who inject drugs are at a significantly greater risk of blood borne viruses, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Access to harm reduction programs is critical to reducing transmission and achieving the elimination of viral hepatitis.

Read more here:

Part-time Position: Hepatitis B Service System Navigator

The Royal Melbourne Hospital is seeking a community or peer support worker, preferably with lived experience of hepatitis B, to join our LINC-B team as a part-time Service System Navigator (2 days per week). LINC-B is a 12-month pilot program that aims to connect people living with hepatitis B to care. The Service System Navigator will work with newly diagnosed people within the LINC-B pilot program who need additional support to connect with clinical care and other services. They will also be involved in the design of the LINC-B program to ensure it meets the needs of people living with hepatitis B.

There is more information in the linked PD, and applications can be submitted at the following link:

Applications close on 20 April 2023.