World Hepatitis Day: Hepatitis C elimination is possible

July 2014

The elimination of hepatitis C (HCV) is a real possibility with new treatments combined with harm reduction, according to World Health Organization (WHO) experts, including Burnet Institute’s Professor Margaret Hellard.

Speaking at a recent press conference to celebrate World Hepatitis Day, Head of Burnet’s Centre for Population Health, Professor Margaret Hellard said there should be greater focus on treating people who inject drugs.

“We are now at a time when the antiviral drugs are available, the people who need to be treated are people who inject drugs, but we do not always provide adequate prevention, treatment and care programs for these people,” Professor Hellard said.

“People who inject drugs are an easy population to treat, but there is significant stigma and discrimination, and in some parts of the world, a real problem with the law that people who inject drugs can’t access health services.”

She said in Australia, we don’t provide healthcare and support services for these people in the right place.

“The models tell us that if we treat people who inject drugs with new direct-acting antiviral therapies, we can eliminate hepatitis C, but it needs to be in conjunction with needle and syringe programs,” she explained.

“In Melbourne, if you take health clinics to the communities, you can treat people who inject drugs easily you can make sure that they can get clean needles and even provide opioid substitution therapy in one place.”

Between 130 and 150 million people around the world have chronic hepatitis C infection with around 350,000 to 500,000 people dying each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases.

Catherine Somerville

Originally published at