27 July, 2020

NACCHO message for World Hepatitis Day ‘Keep Hepatitis treatments on and stay connected with your local Aboriginal Community Control

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is spreading the message to all Australians that while the rates of hepatitis in Australia are declining, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are being left behind.

Hepatitis Australia reports that ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up 3% of the Australian population, but at least 11% of newly reported cases of Hepatitis C each year. In 2018, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were estimated to make up 6.3% (around 14,277 individuals) of the 226,612 Australians living with chronic hepatitis B.’ Currently, Hep-C can be cured with low-cost treatment, however, Hep-B does not have a cure.

NACCHO Medical Adviser, Dr Jason Agostino said, “Great work has been done in improving immunisation rates against Hepatitis B and on treatment for Hepatitis C, yet the prevalence of viral hepatitis and subsequent liver damage remains high amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. What is particularly concerning are rates of viral hepatitis in remote and very remote communities are five times higher compared to metropolitan areas.

“In the COVID-19 environment, we want to urge everyone to continue their regular health care. This involves getting childhood immunisations and for those on treatment for Hepatitis, don’t change or stop treatments unless advised to do so by your treating doctor.”

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO), Apunipima Cape York Health Council’s Public Health Medical Officer, Dr Mark Wenitong said, “At Apunipima we provide screenings for Hepatitis in our clinics and work closely with prison screening programs to help control the disease being transmitted within communities when prisoners are released.

“Hepatitis in our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a preventable disease, but with both short-term and potentially chronic implications, Hepatitis has a significant impact on our mob’s health.  We need to work together to ensure we practice prevention in our communities, but also that we get tested, detect the disease early and have access to best practice treatment and management.”

NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills states, “We are so proud of the work done by our members and affiliates in preventing the spread of COVID-19, but we cannot lose sight of the need to reduce our viral hepatitis rates. We are concerned about the harm caused to our communities from the spread of Hepatitis B and C and I encourage our people to get vaccinated and continue ongoing treatments. Keep in touch with your local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.”

This year World Hepatitis Day, July 28, is focused on the millions of people worldwide who are living with viral hepatitis and are unaware. Typically, those suffering hepatitis B show no symptoms at all. Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, people’s health will suffer, and lives will be lost.

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