Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection affects around 3.5 million children worldwide, and in Australia, it’s estimated that it affects at least 4 children per million under 15 years old. Children with chronic hepatitis C infection can suffer from reduced quality of life, social stigmatisation, and inadequate access to specialist care. As with adults, the disease can progress to hepatic fibrosis, chronic liver disease, and hepatocellular cancer.
A Story of Mixed Success
The newly released 2022 annual report from the Burnet and Kirby institutes, Australia’s Progress Towards Hepatitis C Elimination, has a story of mixed success to tell.
Unrestricted access to direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) through public subsidy since March 2016 means there is a real opportunity to reach the official government target of eliminating hepatitis C as a public health threat in Australia by 2030.
Aaron* was shocked when his hepatitis C rapid test came back positive. When he was approached by a nurse and peer worker at the Hutt Street Centre to get tested, he had been pretty sure his results would be ok.
If you’re homeless and have no symptoms, testing for hep C is probably low on the list of priorities. Aaron considered himself pretty clued in about blood-borne virus risk; he’d been injecting drugs for many years and was an expert in technique, always using clean equipment.
Despite having been one of the countries leading in the global campaign to eliminate viral hepatitis, Australia may now not meet its 2022 national hepatitis C treatment target or the 2030 global target.