New hep C testing/treatment campaign’s successes
The Eliminate Hepatitis C Australia Partnership (EC Australia) was created in 2018 to bring together researchers, scientists, government, health services and community organisations to work toward eliminating hepatitis C as a public health threat in Australia by 2030 (see last issue for more).
The EC Australia “It’s Your Right” Health Promotion Campaign (IYR) aims to reduce the prevalence of hepatitis C amongst people who inject drugs by using peer engagement to increase access to hepatitis C testing and treatment. The campaign aims to shift perceptions about treatment and support people to prioritise treatment for hepatitis C.
The SA component of the IYR campaign was delivered between April and July in key metropolitan areas. Peer outreach focused on four areas: Adelaide and the inner suburbs, the northern suburbs, the southern suburbs and the western suburbs (including Port Adelaide). In each area trained IYR peers worked in pairs to talk to people who inject drugs about hep C and refer them to the local peer Clean Needle Program (CNP) and testing/treatment services. It’s Your Right merchandise (caps, tote bags, tourniquets) was used as an outreach engagement tool and given to people who inject drugs who engaged in HCV conversations with the IYR peers.
Hepatitis SA hep C peers conducted point-of-care testing for HCV at services in each of the four areas during the time that the IYR peers were undertaking outreach. Incentives were provided to people who inject drugs if they undertook testing after being referred by the IYR peers. Additional ‘bring a friend’ incentives were aimed at increasing the number of conversations about hepatitis C and the number of people accessing hep C testing or treatment. All participants testing positive were referred by the hep C peers to community-based viral hepatitis nurses for active follow-up.
The It’s Your Right campaign provided many opportunities for the CNP Peer Projects. The street/community-based outreach was a new way to engage with people who inject drugs, especially more marginalised injectors, and to facilitate increased access to hep C testing and treatment for our clients. Having CNP peers working with and supporting hep C peers provided an opportunity to work more closely across programs within Hepatitis SA. The campaign was also an opportunity to recruit and train more peer workers, including 2 Aboriginal peers which has led to increased engagement with Aboriginal people who inject drugs.
Some notable ‘It’s Your Right’ Health Promotion Campaign Successes:
- 205 people who inject drugs were tested for hepatitis C; 44 (21%) were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander clients, who can face many barriers to testing.
- All 30 HCV RNA-positive participants (15% of those tested) were referred to hep C treatment. Five of the HCV RNA-positive clients (17%) were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders.
- Another 3 participants had been treated for hep C and had cleared the virus, but their test results showed that they had been reinfected. These 3 people were referred to the viral hepatitis nurses to be retreated.
- The ‘bring a friend’ incentive has been very successful in attracting more clients for HCV point-of-care testing.
In addition to the peer engagement component of the campaign, there was a series of posters encouraging people who inject drugs to get tested for hep C. The posters were placed in laneways, public areas, shopping centres and even on metro buses. There was good feedback about the posters, with people commenting on the bright colours as a welcome change from some of the usual hepatitis C health promotion resources. Most of the feedback related to the “Get Clear on Gear” poster which received positive feedback from everyone who commented on it.
For more information on hepatitis C testing and treatment, or to view video testimonials from people who have cleared hepatitis C through treatment, go to itsyourright.com.au.