Gold Coast: Thursday, 29 September 2016
New national reports released today from the 10th Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference show that despite Australia's great progress towards eliminating hepatitis C, stigma and discrimination by health workers is a barrier preventing many at risk from coming forward for diagnosis and care.
"Widespread hepatitis C-related stigma and discrimination in the health-care sector – mostly directed towards injecting drug use – impedes access to services and impairs the quality of health-care delivery for people living with hepatitis C and other key populations. It directly undermines efforts to eliminate the disease.
"These destructive, alienating attitudes must end if we are to capitalise on the progress made with the recent introduction of highly effective hepatitis C cures," said Levinia Crooks, CEO of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM).
Stigma and discrimination in health takes many forms ranging from the denial of health care, unjust barriers to service provision, and inferior quality of care at one end, to lack of respect at the other. In the Annual Report of Trends in Behaviour Supplement 2016 on viral hepatitis released today, a survey of 416 Australians who acquired hepatitis C through use of non-sterile injecting equipment found experiencing discrimination from health workers lessened their likelihood of engaging in future treatment.
UNSW Professor Carla Treloar, Director of the Centre for Social Research, said with record numbers of people in 2016 seeking new hepatitis C treatments, the impact of stigma as a treatment barrier was now clearer.
ASHM – a peak organisation of health professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections – has launched a two-year initiative to address stigma and discrimination and systemic barriers experienced by those living with hepatitis C, B and HIV in accessing the health system. This will include recommendations to address barriers which might differentially impact sub-populations.
It will also include the development of online resources to be rolled out across the health sector through collaborations with a range of health services, Colleges and professional organisations.
In the meantime the organisation recommends health care workers take a moment to educate themselves.
"Despite the progress with treatment, more than 40,000 Australians living with hepatitis C remain undiagnosed. We strongly urge all health care workers, but particularly those in primary care, or working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations to prioritise hepatitis C in their professional development plans for the coming year."
On-line and face-to-face training across Australia can be access from http://www.ashm.org.au/HCV/training
Annual Report of Trends in Behaviour Supplement 2016 on Viral Hepatitis published by UNSW's Centre for Social Research in Health:
Hepatitis B and C in Australia Annual Surveillance Report Supplement 2016 published by UNSW's Kirby Institute:
Stigma and Discrimination around HIV and HCV in Healthcare Settings: Research Report
The NSW Ministry of Health funded ASHM and National Centre for HIV Social Research to undertake a study to describe the current experiences of stigma and discrimination within health care settings for people living with HIV and/or hepatitis C. The report also makes three recommendations to address these issues.: Download here
Contacts available for further comment
A/Prof Levinia Crooks (ASHM CEO) — 0411 249 891 (NSW, National)
Download this Media Release
ASHM Media Release: Health Workforce Stigma + Discrimination Undermining Hepatitis C Success on 29 Sep 2016
Further information on ASHM's work in building the workforce capacity in Viral Hepatitis
Over the next 12 months ASHM is increasing the number of hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) training courses around Australia with a focus on regional and remote communities resulting in an increase in HBV s100 prescribers as well as an increase in GPs prescribing DAAs under s85. Hepatitis courses organised by ASHM until the end of 2016 spans all states and territories – ACT, NSW, NT, QLD, TAS, VIC and WA – accompanied by a number of free webinar presentations.
"Now is not the time to take our eye off the ball: Momentum has to continue with more General Practitioners taking up the challenge laid down by the Commonwealth Government to identify and treat their patients with chronic hepatitis C," says John Hornell, Viral Hepatitis Programs Manager of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM).
"ASHM goal is to assist in the training of General Practice to ensure that GPs, Practice nurses and the wider sector are knowledgeable and confident to prescribe direct acting antivirals (DAAs) to their hepatitis C patients so to help eradicate this disease from Australia."
"We have already seen an increase in the number of GPs attending ASHM courses for HCV in the past 6 months since the DAAs were listed on the PBS."
Access free ASHM Hepatitis C Webinar Series:
The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) is a peak organisation of health professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections (STIs). ASHM draws on its experience and expertise to support the health workforce and to contribute to the sector, domestically and internationally.
About the Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference
The Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference, held biennially since 1997 is the leading multidisciplinary Viral Hepatitis conference in Australasia. The tenth conference is being held from 29 September – 1 October 2016 on the Gold Coast, where innovative research is being presented – in the collective efforts to move towards the virtual elimination of viral hepatitis in Australasia.