WA push to crack down on Hep C and HIV
Hepatitis C notifications in Aboriginal people in WA are 22 times higher than in the rest of the population, WA’s Department of Health has warned.
The department has launched a campaign to encourage people to look after their blood and not to share needles.
It hopes to reduce the rates of HIV and hepatitis C.
Communicable Disease Control director Dr Paul Armstrong said people with blood-borne viruses often looked and felt healthy, but it was important they got tested.
“New diagnoses of hepatitis C have been gradually increasing in the Aboriginal population across Australia over the past five years, most commonly in 20 to 49 year olds,” he said.
“In Western Australia, hepatitis C notifications in Aboriginal people reached a 10-year high in 2014, with the rate being 22 times higher than in non-Aboriginal people.
“The proportion of newly-diagnosed HIV infections in Australia attributed to injecting drug use was also much higher in Aboriginal people than non-Aboriginal people – 16 per cent compared to 3 per cent, respectively.
“It is vital to increase awareness among Aboriginal people that by sharing injecting equipment, such as needles, they can make themselves sick and this can impact on their communities.”
Dr Armstrong said a range of new treatments made it possible for people with blood borne viruses to continue to live long and healthy lives.
Treatments with few side effects are now available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and provide a cure for 95 per cent of people with chronic hepatitis C, he said. Effective treatments are also available for people living with HIV.
For more information about blood-borne viruses visit: http://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Health-conditions/Blood-borne-viruses and http://www.couldihaveit.com.au/bbv