Campaign's goal to eliminate hepatitis C

·2-min read

Hepatitis C can be eliminated in Australia in the next 10 years but only if people get tested and seek treatment.

That's the message of a new Victorian campaign launched on Thursday by the Burnet Institute and Harm Reduction Victoria.

More than 120,000 Australians are estimated to be living with chronic hepatitis C but testing and treatment rates are declining.

"Australians are dying unnecessarily because they have a hepatitis C infection, which is not diagnosed and treated," Burnet Institute deputy director Professor Margaret Hellard told AAP.

Hepatitis C, which affects the liver, is spread when the blood of an infected person enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person.

People who inject drugs, those who have spent time in prison, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders remain in the priority group for testing and treatment.

"It doesn't matter how you got infected," Prof Hellard said. "What matters is we've got a cure and we'd like you to come forward for treatment."

That treatment comes in the form of antiviral medications readily available across the country.

"It's one tablet a day for eight to 12 weeks with minimal side effects," Prof Hellard said.

"They're extraordinary drugs.

"It's your right to treatment. It's your right to be well. Don't be afraid."

The It's Your Right campaign will be promoting the testing and treating message in Victoria from Thursday, which is also World Hepatitis Day.

The campaign has already been launched in five other states and will follow in NSW and Tasmania next month.

Meanwhile, one in four Australian's are at risk of having liver disease according to data released by Hepatitis Queensland.

Symptoms and signs may not show until later in life but recent COVID-19 lockdowns and social isolation has impacted diet habits with serious long-term consequences.

Dr Katharine Irvine, a Senior Mater Research Fellow said younger Australian's are at risk of developing liver disease through overeating and consuming too much alcohol.

She said it's important for Australians to consider their diet and lifestyle choices.

"As the only cure is a liver transplant there is a high risk of morbidity and mortality. These people risk becoming frequent flyers in the hospital system in later life," she said.

"Lifestyle modifications are the only way of preventing these causes of liver disease, so people need to be mindful of their liver health."

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