People who use drugs require prioritisation not exclusion in efforts to eliminate Hepatitis C

6th International Symposium on Hepatitis Care in Substance Users,  6th Sept 2017

An international conference bringing together hepatitis C experts from around the world is today calling for strategies to prioritise people who use drugs, saying hepatitis C elimination is impossible without them.

“The number of people around the world dying from hepatitis C is increasing. We have the tools to reverse this trend, to eliminate this disease and save millions of lives. But it will not happen until people who use drugs become a focus of our efforts,” said Associate Professor Jason Grebely, President of the International Network of Hepatitis C in Substance Users (INHSU), the convenors of the conference.

 

Australia leads the world in hepatitis C treatment – what’s behind its success?

The Conversation, July 31, 2017 4.05pm AEST

The World Health Organisation recently set ambitious goals for the “elimination of hepatitis C as a major public health threat”. These included having 80% of people treated and an 80% reduction in the spread of the virus by 2030. Given there are around 70 million people infected with hep C worldwide, only 20% diagnosed, and no effective vaccine, the task ahead is enormous.

But Australia is impressively heading towards these targets and may present a model for other countries to adopt. A recent report by the Kirby Institute estimated Australia was on track to eliminate hepatitis C by 2026 – four years earlier than the WHO goal.

Australian Needle and Syringe Program Survey: National Data Report 2012 – 2016

The Kirby Institute, UNSW, May 2017

The Australian Needle and Syringe Program Survey (ANSPS) provides serial point prevalence estimates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibodies and sexual and injecting risk behaviour among people who inject drugs (PWID) in Australia.
Conducted annually over a one-two week period in October, all clients attending participating needle and syringe program (NSP) services are invited to complete a brief, anonymous questionnaire and to provide a capillary blood sample for HIV and HCV antibody testing.
This report presents national and state/territory data for the period 2012 to 2016.

Key findings:

  • In 2016, 50 Australian Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs) participated in the ANSPS and 2,210 NSP attendees completed the survey. The response rate was 41%.
  • Over the period 2012 to 2016, the median age of survey respondents increased from 38 years to 42 years, with a concurrent decrease in the proportion of young injectors (aged <25 years) from 7% in 2012 to 4% in 2016.
  • HIV antibody prevalence remained low and stable nationally, ranging from 1.2% to 2.1% over the period 2012 to 2016
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibody prevalence was stable over the period 2012 to 2016, ranging from 51% to 57%.
  • Nationally, the proportion of respondents who reported recent (last 12 months) initiation of HCV treatment was low and stable at 1-3% between 2011-2015, but increased significantly to 22% in 2016, with substantial increases observed in all jurisdictions.

Download Australian Needle and Syringe Program Survey: National Data Report 2012 – 2016 (PDF) 

Study suggests drug criminalization undermining global HIV/AIDS efforts

Medical News Today, May 2017

The criminalization of drugs is a leading factor in the world’s HIV epidemic and a potential barrier to eradicating HIV/AIDS, say researchers who’ve undertaken a sweeping review of research on laws and policies prohibiting drug use. Assistant professor Kora DeBeck of SFU’s School of Public Policy, who is a research scientist with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, is co-lead of the study, published in The Lancet.

 

Hepatitis C treatment can be provided successfully at syringe programme sites

infohep.org, 18 April 2017

Administering direct-acting antiviral therapy for people who inject drugs at a syringe exchange site led to high sustained response rates in a pilot study in New York City. Expanding treatment for this population could reduce hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission and ultimately help eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat.

AMA calls for needle and syringe programs (NSPs) to be introduced in prisons

Australian Medical Association, January 9th 2017

The AMA has called for needle and syringe programs (NSPs) to be introduced in prisons and other custodial settings, to reduce the spread of Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs) including hepatitis B and C, and HIV.

AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, said today that prevalence of BBVs is significantly higher in prisons, yet custodial facilities provide a unique opportunity to protect the health of inmates.

A new AMA position statement also warns against making transmission of a BBV a crime, and calls for specific resourcing and management of HLTV-1, a relatively unknown BBV that affects Aboriginal people in central Australia.

Read more here