This is sponsored content for Hepatitis ACT
Treatment of hepatitis C has come a long way with a breakthrough that has brought relief to tens of thousands of Australians.
Whilst treatment was once gruelling with a low chance of success, thankfully this is no longer the case.
The future for those diagnosed is brighter; the road to recovery much faster and simpler than ever before.
Improved success rate
In March 2016, new revolutionary direct-acting antiviral medications were listed on the Australian Government Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Now with a cure rate of greater than 95 per cent, these new DAAs truly mark a major turning point in the effort to cure hepatitis C.
The DAAs are highly effective for most people, have few or no side-effects and are tablet(s) taken for a shorter time than previous medications.
Now hepatitis C can be cured in as little as 8-12 weeks and 1-2 tablets per day.
All it takes is making an appointment with your GP to get you started on the road to being cured.
Why seek treatment
In Australia, it is estimated nearly 182,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis C, with a high prevalence amongst baby boomers.
Left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to serious liver disease including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
However, if diagnosed and treated early, even a damaged liver has a remarkable ability to repair and regenerate itself if treated correctly.
Whilst there is no vaccine for hepatitis C at the moment the direct-acting antiviral medications have a greater than 95 per cent cure rate and little to no side-effects.
What does hepatitis C look like?
Many people with hepatitis C have little or no symptoms; however, it can silently cause long term damage and that’s why it is important to find out if you need treatment.
“Often people who are living with hepatitis C will experience few symptoms,” said Sarah-Jane Olsen, Executive Officer for Hepatitis ACT.
“Symptoms can often be quite vague and attributed to other circumstances such as ageing.
“Common symptoms include nausea, fatigue, and general muscular aches and pains.”
Who needs to be tested?
Hepatitis C was only discovered in 1989, and tests for its presence in blood were only available from 1990.
This means people who had blood transfusions and surgery before this may be at risk.
Other transmission routes include experimental drug use and some tattooing practices dating back decades.
Even some health care and emergency services workers may have been at risk.
One area not often mentioned is the possibility of some Australians born overseas in parts of Europe and South-East Asia having hepatitis C due to unsterile medical procedures.
If a person believes they may have been exposed to hepatitis C no matter how long ago they should see their doctor.
Sometimes the source would never be known but what is important now is that it can be cured.
“Australia is a leader in the global response to hepatitis C,” says Hepatitis Australia’s spokesperson Helen Tyrrell.
“But a concerted effort is needed to break down the barriers to more Australians speaking to their GPs about hepatitis C treatment.”
Whilst diagnosis rates in Australia are amongst the highest in the world, treatment uptake is low. We need to raise awareness of the new cures and ensure that people are not missing out on these potentially life saving treatments.
“Many men over 50 may have been diagnosed years ago and were told that there was nothing they could do about it,” said Wendy Anderson, Hepatitis C program manager.
“People have heard horror stories of previous treatments and this could be a factor to people not coming forward for treatment.”
That is why Hepatitis Australia and Hepatitis ACT are encouraging them to come forward for screening and also take advantage, if necessary, of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme’s inclusion of new anti-viral medicines.
The aim is to have Australia free of hepatitis C by 2030.
About Hepatitis ACT
Hepatitis ACT is funded by ACT Health to deliver a comprehensive range of hepatitis B and hepatitis C related information, training, advocacy, policy, prevention, support and referral services.
They work to help prevent viral hepatitis transmission, reduce morbidity and mortality, and minimise the personal and social impacts.
“We work specifically with people at risk of or otherwise affected by hepatitis B, people at risk of or otherwise affected by hepatitis C, people who inject drugs, people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, and people in custodial settings,” said Ms Olsen.
Our communities are diverse, often marginalised, and regularly report experiences of stigmatisation and discrimination.Sarah-Jane Olsen, Executive Officer, Hepatitis ACT.
TEST CURE LIVE
Last year Hepatitis Australia launched the Test, Cure, Live campaign to prompt people to get tested if they think they might be at risk, and for people with hepatitis C to seek treatment.
The campaign includes a podcast series #MakingHepatitisCHistory, which features people sharing their stories of being cured of hepatitis C.
There is a wealth of valuable information to be found on the TEST CURE LIVE website
More information and support
You can call the Hepatitis Australia national information line on 1800 437 222.
You can also call Hepatitis ACT for support and information from Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm on (02) 6230 6344.
This is sponsored content for Hepatitis ACT