Expert analysis has revealed that as many as 1,200 Bundaberg residents are living with the threat of liver failure because they are not aware they have hepatitis C or that cures for the deadly condition are readily available.
This finding has led Hepatitis Queensland to launch the TEST CURE LIVE campaign, which harnesses community groups, social media, advertising and community radio to engage and motivate people living with hepatitis C (diagnosed and undiagnosed) to speak to their doctor.
“The campaign message is simple. If you are worried you might have hepatitis C, get tested. If you have hepatitis C, get cured and live free from the virus,” said Hepatitis Queensland CEO, Michelle Kudell.
“Our aim is to get people motivated and speaking to their doctors about getting treated or about having a simple blood test to check for this deadly disease. Left undetected or untreated, the liver damage caused by hepatitis C occurs slowly and silently, with many people mistakenly attributing symptoms to just getting older.
“In many cases, people have been living with hepatitis C for decades. Some are unaware they have the virus as they may never have been tested, others may have blocked out their diagnosis, and for some, they may not know the virus can now be cured.
“Despite breakthrough antiviral medicines being available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for the past three years, far too many people remain unaware that hepatitis C can be cured,” she said.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne viral infection. Hepatitis C causes liver inflammation which left untreated can cause liver scarring, serious liver disease like liver cancer and liver failure. New generation antiviral medicines can cure hepatitis C in as little as 8-12 weeks, with few side-effects. These therapies are subsidised by the Federal Government and available on prescription for all Australians with hepatitis C.
For decades, hepatitis C had been difficult to treat, with long treatment times, limited certainty of success and gruelling side-effects – that is, until recently.Revolutionary new medicines have turned this chronic condition into one that can be easily treated, with an outstanding 95 per cent success rate and comparativelyfew side-effects.
“Since early 2016, a quarter of Bundaberg residents living with hepatitis C have undergone treatment. While many are celebrating life without hepatitis C, far more remain untreated and at risk of serious liver disease,” Ms Kudell said.
General practitioners can prescribe and manage curative antiviral therapy, while prescriptions can be filled at most community pharmacies at a cost of only $40.30 (general patients) or $6.50 (concession card holders) per month.
“For the last decade in Australia, on average 10,500 people per year are diagnosed and in 2017, sadly, 584 died from hepatitis C-related liver disease,” she said.
“There is no reason to live with hepatitis C. Now is the time for action. A simple test followed by tablets for two or three months is all it takes to be cured.”
Hepatitis Queensland will be attending the Howard Country Markets on Saturday 7th September and the Shalom Markets on Sunday 8th September, so drop in and say hi to Sam, Winnie and Jeanette and learn more about the cure for hepatitis C.
The Hepatitis Queensland team will also be at the Bundaberg and District Neighbourhood Centre from 10.00am and 1.00pm on Monday 9th September hosting a free community awareness event to raise awareness about hepatitis C.
State Member for Bundaberg David Batt will join the Hepatitis Queensland team in Bundaberg to help promote the Test Cure Live campaign and what it stands for.
“I was shocked to find out that as many as 1200 Bundaberg residents could be unnecessarily living with the threat of liver failure when treatment is readily accessible,” he said.
“The Wide Bay is home to a significant portion of Queenslanders living with hepatitis C, yet our treatment uptake is sitting at only 23%. This figure needs to change.
“Diagnosed or undiagnosed, I want to encourage Bundaberg residents to speak to their doctor.
“Hepatitis C has potentially devastating effects so I want to make sure that everyone knows that help is available.”
The TEST CURE LIVE website (testcurelive.com.au)provides in-depth information about hepatitis C, including testing and treatment options, as well as stories of people who after many years of living with hepatitis C have been cured by new antiviral medications.
Monday, 9 September 2019