A new project led by the University of Sydney hopes to work out how to eliminate hepatitis C from Australia by encouraging people to take up new, highly curative treatments.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that is one of the major causes of liver cirrhosis, cancer, and liver failure.
Treatment is important because it helps stop liver damage and might even prevent liver cancer.
New medicines to treat hepatitis C are safe, very effective, and easy to take with as little as one tablet a day for 8 weeks. These new medicines cure most people, about 95 percent, from infection and are available at a low cost for people who have a Medicare card.
Despite this, many Australians with hepatitis C are yet to undertake the treatment and be cured.
According to modeling from the Kirby Institute, of the estimated 123 770 Australians living with chronic hepatitis C at the start of 2020, only 7 percent of people received hepatitis C treatment during 2020.
Lead Investigator of the Motivate C project, Professor Tom Snelling from the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health said the aim of the new study is to find out how to encourage as many people with hepatitis C as possible to seek treatment.
“While most people are aware that treatment is available, we know there are still barriers that prevent treatment such as stigma and out-of-pocket expenses,” said Professor Snelling.
“People living with hepatitis C can remain symptom-free for many years, so treatment may not be a priority for them. We believe financial incentives may offer a simple, yet potentially effective, solution.”
In 2016, the Australian Government endorsed the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which set the overarching goal of elimination of viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030.
Professor Snelling said the knowledge gained from the Motivate C project will help Australia move towards that goal by informing how hepatitis C treatment is promoted to the tens of thousands of Australians who need it.
The University of Sydney is leading this project in collaboration with researchers, healthcare providers, and experts within the hepatitis C field. Funding for the project is provided by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.
The study is approved by the Sydney Local Health District Human Research Ethics Committee (2022/ETH01681).