NSW Health has today released a comprehensive plan to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health concern by 2028 with the NSW Hepatitis C Strategy 2022 – 2025.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the new strategy is centered on prevention, testing, treatment and addressing stigma and discrimination associated with the disease.
“The strategy aims to reduce hepatitis C infections by 60 per cent, decrease the number of deaths linked to hepatitis C, remove the stigma linked to the virus and increase testing and treatment,” Dr Chant said.
The NSW Hepatitis C Strategy 2022-2025 prioritises:
- 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.
Between 2016 and 2020, more than 30,700 people began treatment for hepatitis C in New South Wales.
More than seven in 10 people living with hepatitis C in Australia have reported experiencing stigma and discrimination, which can be a major barrier to receiving treatment. The strategy addresses this through reducing structural barriers, increasing education, and strengthening the peer workforce to support those in the community with hepatitis C through care.
People who have lived experience of hepatitis C are able to engage with people in a meaningful and supportive way, particularly those who may have felt stigma or discrimination themselves,” Dr Chant said.
The NSW Hepatitis C Strategy 2022-2025 highlights priority groups who are disproportionately affected by hepatitis C for improved health outcomes.
Hepatitis C disproportionately affects Aboriginal people in NSW. In 2019, the notification rate for hepatitis C was 11 times higher in Aboriginal people compared with the rest of the population.
Building on partnerships already in place with Aboriginal communities, the strategy aims to bolster education, improve access to harm reduction services and support increased access to testing and treatment in Aboriginal Health Services.
The NSW Government invested $6.2 million in services to strengthen testing, treatment and prevention of hepatitis C in 2021/2022.