Viral hepatitis elimination is possible


  • In Australia over 350,000 people are living with hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Many are unaware they are living with the virus.

  • Hepatitis B and C are preventable diseases.

  • There is a cure for hepatitis C and effective treatment for hepatitis B.

  • Without treatment, hepatitis B and C can cause liver disease and liver cancer.

 

Disease elimination depends upon societal and political commitment.

Elimination and eradication are the ultimate goals of public health. The only question is whether these goals are to be achieved in the present or some future generation.


We are in the World Health Organization’s decade for disease elimination.

This decade is the countdown to achieving the disease elimination targets as outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Health Sector Strategies on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and STIs.


The World Health Organization has defined the goal for eliminating viral hepatitis.

The elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health threat means achieving globally a 90 per cent reduction in new chronic infections and a 65 per cent reduction in mortality.


Australia is committed to the elimination of hepatitis B and hepatitis C as a public health threat.

Australia is one of 194 World Health Organization member states who voted unanimously to adopt the Global Hepatitis Elimination Strategy. This has informed the development of our National Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C Strategies 2018-2022.


Australia’s progress towards elimination is a mixed bag.

The national response to hepatitis B and hepatitis C includes significant achievements (such as hepatitis B childhood vaccination coverage already exceeding 2022 targets), promising progress (such as the roll out of direct-acting antiviral medicines for hepatitis C), and areas of under-achievement (including very slow progress towards hepatitis B diagnosis, in-care, and treatment targets).


It is possible to eliminate viral hepatitis in Australia.

Hepatitis B has a vaccine and hepatitis C has a cure. With investment in national health priority in the areas of policy, investment and action elimination is possible.

Australia needs to increase testing and treatment rates for hepatitis B and C if we are to reach elimination targets.


Linking people living with hepatitis B to appropriate care is paramount to saving lives.

In 2018 there was an estimated 226,566 people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia, representing 0.90% of the population. It is estimated that 68.1% of those people have ever been diagnosed. The national target is 80% by 2022.

People who are living with chronic hepatitis B need regular health monitoring to help prevent the longer term impacts of the condition, including progression to serious liver disease or liver cancer. This includes treatment administered at the correct time.


Now is the right time to modify and scale-up approaches to engage people who have not been adequately reached in the hepatitis C response to date.

At the end of 2018 an estimated 130,089 people in Australia were living with chronic hepatitis C, down from 188,951 at the start of 2016.

Highly effective medicines are available to cure hepatitis C. They are easy to take with as little as one tablet a day, no injections and most people experience few to no side effects.

More than 90,000 people have initiated hepatitis C treatment since March 2016, but access to these cures has declined significantly in recent years.