Hepatitis Awareness Week is here – July 24 to 30 – and people in the Far West at risk of hepatitis C infection are being encouraged to take steps to seek testing and treatment to avoid permanent liver damage and transmission to others.
Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver and is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. Once considered a chronic condition with life-threatening health impacts, hepatitis C can now be cured with simple, effective, and affordable treatments.
These treatments, known as direct acting antivirals (DAAs), are widely available. DAAs cure hepatitis C in over 95% of cases, with minimal side effects. Tablets need to be taken for only eight to 12 weeks for most people.
So far, over 45,000 people in NSW have completed treatment for hepatitis C using DAAs. However, there are still many people living with hepatitis C who have not received treatment, and this includes around 180 in Far West NSW.
In June last year, NSW Health released a comprehensive plan to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health concern by 2028 through the NSW Hepatitis C Strategy 2022 to 2025.
The strategy includes working closely with key stakeholders to improve access to testing and treatment, including alcohol and other drug services, needle and syringe program sites, mental health settings and custodial settings; addressing barriers for treatment such as stigma and discrimination; creating a workforce with lived experience of hepatitis C to offer support and education in the community, enhancing the collection and analysis of hepatitis C data; and improving access to services for people in regional and remote areas.
NSW Health has also partnered with Hepatitis NSW and the NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA) to develop HEP CURED, a state-wide health promotion and awareness campaign.
People who may be at risk of hepatitis C should talk to their GP or call Clinic 9 at the Broken Hill Community Health Centre on 8080 1100 to book a test.
For more information call the Hepatitis NSW Infoline on 1800 803 990 or visit NSW Hepatitis C Strategy 2014-2020
To order a self-collected testing kit, go to DBStest.health.nsw.gov.au