An open letter to Australia’s political parties

Federal Election 2019: Leading the National Response to Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis Australia has released the Leading the National Response to Viral Hepatitis: Australian Federal Election 2019 paper. The paper outlines the actions needed to progress Australia’s response to hepatitis B and hepatitis C and is a call to action, for all Australia’s political parties, in order to achieve the national and global elimination goals which the Australian Government has committed to.

Australia is well placed, globally, to be one of the first countries to eliminate hepatitis C using the new direct acting anti-viral medication available to all Australians aged over 18 years. Requiring a treatment rate of 1500 to 2000 people per month to meet the national elimination goals, our challenge is to retain momentum. The most recent data would indicate that rates have now dipped to as low as 1100 people per month requiring immediate action and support.

Currently, in Australia, there remain approximately 1 in 50 people affected by viral hepatitis and an estimated 1 in 3 adults having a liver disease that could lead to cancer. The Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing (AIHW-2017) showed the change in liver cancer mortality rates between 1982 and 2017 increased by over 200% and it remains the 6th leading cause of cancer death in Australia. Worldwide, hepatitis B (HBV) is noted as the leading cause of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and hepatitis C (HCV) accounts for an estimated 350,000 – 500,000 deaths annually (WHO 2016) due to liver cirrhosis or HCC.

In Queensland our care and treatment rates for hepatitis B currently sit below the national average in all but one of the statistical areas – Brisbane South, and our care and treatment rates for hepatitis C currently sit below the national average, however this applies to all of the statistical areas according to the Viral Hepatitis Mapping Project: National Report 2017 (ASHM, VIDRL, Doherty Institute).

We need to improve these rates if we hope to achieve the elimination goals by 2020. It is now vitally important that we commit to immediate and substantial investment to scale-up the national response to hepatitis B and C. We urge you to raise this matter with your party leader. The Leading the National Response to Viral Hepatitis: Australian Federal Election 2019 paper has been provided to all major parties and we look forward to responses by May 9, 2019. Hepatitis Australia will be disseminating responses widely.

We thank you for your support. Should you require any further information please contact Hepatitis Queensland on 07 3846 0020.