South Australia’s Viral Hepatitis Nurses are clinical practice consultants who work with patients in the community, general practice or hospital setting. They provide a link between public hospital specialist services and general practice, and give specialised support to general practitioners (GPs) to assist in the management of patients with hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
Even in a country like Australia, with a high standard of living and a socialised health system, the battle to eliminate hepatitis can be challenging. So what is it like in a country like India, where poverty, population pressures and lack of health funding and education make every medical challenge so much harder?
Dr Sunil Solomon is Associate Professor of Medicine at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He spoke at the Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference in Adelaide about his work on eliminating HCV among people in India who inject drugs.
You may have read recently that health experts in the US are concerned that the health gains made by treating people with hep C will be lost because this group is three times more likely to be smokers. While we don’t have any figures about how many people with hepatitis C smoke here in Australia, we do know from personal experience that there are many smokers among people who’ve been treated.
Thousands of South Australians are missing out on life-saving treatment that can stop serious liver disease, simply because they don’t know about new treatments or are too afraid to ask.
Taking every dose of your direct-acting antiviral gives you the best chance of a cure. Because many of these drugs are new, it’s not yet clear how missed doses may affect the success of your treatment, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and try not to miss any dose.
Remembering every dose can be difficult even when motivation is high and the treatment course short, as is the case for most people on the new hepatitis C medicines. The information that came with your drug should advise you on what to do if you do miss a dose and whether you should take it later or skip it.
The prevalence of hepatitis C and hepatitis B in Australian prisons is higher than in in the wider community, but prison settings also present and opportunity for testing, monitoring and treatment, especially for hepatitis C since the introduction of new, highly effective drugs that has shortened treatment time dramatically.
Up to 40 per cent of prisoners have hepatitis C, compared to only one per cent in the wider community, and three to four per cent of prisoners have hepatitis B, compared to just under one per cent in the wider South Australian community.