Friday 5 July 2024

Australia has been urged to accelerate action to eliminate hepatitis B and hepatitis C, with Health Minister Mark Butler MP addressing a renewed push to curb the epidemics.

He spoke alongside Senators Louise Pratt and Dean Smith, Co-Chairs of Parliamentary Friends for ending HIV, STIs and Other Blood Borne Viruses, at a federal parliamentary World Hepatitis Day event on 4 July 2024.

Minister Butler highlighted the need for further action on prevention. 

“In partnership with affected communities, national peak bodies, peer and community organisations and the clinical multidisciplinary workforce, we are examining how to reduce the transmission of hepatitis C in the prison system,” he said.  

“We are determined to explore new ways in which we can make a difference in those settings.” 

The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care

Minister Butler also said the government was committed to funding hepatitis B elimination, with $7.8 million for a public awareness campaign and workforce training. 

 Hepatitis Australia Vice President Frank Carlus

Hepatitis Australia Vice President Frank Carlus said ongoing investment was crucial to meet Australia’s goals of eliminating hepatitis B and hepatitis C by 2030. 

“Australia has been a leader in global efforts to eliminate blood-borne viruses. We have an unprecedented opportunity to end hepatitis B and C by 2030. Our task is to seize this opportunity and accelerate efforts to end these epidemics,” he said. 

“We’ve worked closely with the Commonwealth and state and territory governments on new national strategies to achieve this goal. We look forward to the release of these strategies for elimination in coming months.

“Eliminating viral hepatitis will save thousands of lives. Any delay simply prolongs the period in which people are needlessly infected and need diagnosis and treatment to stay well. 

“Accelerating our efforts now will end these epidemics earlier.”

Nearly 300,000 people in Australia live with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, increasing their risk of liver disease and liver cancer.

Chronic hepatitis B can be managed effectively with antiviral treatment, but three in four people with the condition do not receive regular care. About one in five people with hepatitis C, which is both curable and preventable, do not know they have it. 

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Scarlet Alliance, Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League, Hepatitis B Voices Australia, and State and Territory Community Hepatitis Organisations attended on behalf of communities disproportionately affected by hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Sector partners including the Burnet Institute, Doherty Institute and ASHM Health attended, representing researchers and clinicians on the frontline of efforts to eliminate the disease. 

Nicoletta Estella, who has lived experience of hepatitis C and is a Peer Community Development Worker, called for a stronger focus on community responses. 

"A national response to blood borne viruses  must include meaningful partnerships with people affected by hepatitis and continue a historical evidence based approach. Community-led harm reduction programs have saved countless lives," she said.

We'd like to thank our event sponsors, Gilead and Abbvie, for supporting our World Hepatitis Day Parliamentary Event.

Speakers

  • The Hon Mark Butler MP Minister for Health and Aged Care
  • Selina Walker Senior Ngunnawal Woman
  • Frank Carlus Vice President, Hepatitis Australia
  • Nicoletta Estella Peer Community Development Worker

Hosts

  • Senator Dean Smith
  • Senator Louise Pratt
    Co-Chairs of the Parliamentary Friends for Ending HIV, STIs and Other Blood Borne Viruses

This was an invitation only event for more information or media questions please email [email protected].