There is hope hepatitis C could be eliminated as a public health threat in Australia within the next “10 to 15 years”.
Thursday marks World Hepatitis Day, and with more than 230,000 Australians living with hepatitis C, the virus is considered a major public health issue.
But statistics released from Hepatitis Australia show good news on the horizon for those living with the disease.
Hepatitis Australia chief executive Helen Tyrell said treatments had become increasingly effective, with a curative success rate of more than 95 per cent.
“We’re on track to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat in Australia within ten to 15 years,” she said.
Ms Tyrell said the target to eliminate the virus had become a reality after a record number of people were treated in the past few months.
“We have new estimates from the Kirby Institute, which indicate in just four months over 22,000 people living with hepatitis C have commenced treatment,” she said.
“That is 10 per cent of all people living with hep C in Australia.
“It is an absolutely massive increase on the number previous treated each year, which was around 2,000 to 3,000.”
Ongoing investment necessary to eliminating hepatitis C
Ms Tyrell attributed the growing number of people seeking medication to the ease of accessing treatment.
“We don’t have any restrictions on who can access it, people can go to their GP and they can prescribe them the treatment,” she said.
“The treatment itself is very easy. It is just tablets. It is not toxic and it will generally produce a cure in 12 weeks for 95 per cent of people.”
But Ms Tyrell warned the virus could only be eliminated if there was ongoing Government investment in treatments.
“Ongoing investment and effective partnerships between Government, researchers, clinicians and also people living with the virus are going to be absolutely vital.”