Around one-third of Australians living with hepatitis C have been cured in the last four years. Australia’s response to hepatitis C is seen as a leading example around the world, and the elimination of the disease as a major public health threat is looking like an increasingly achievable goal.
But the situation is much less promising for Australians living with hepatitis B, which is now the most common blood-borne viral infection in Australia. It affects more people than hepatitis C and HIV combined.
The rate of liver cancer deaths and diagnoses has increased substantially in the past three decades, yet researchers say little has been done to help Australians most at risk.
While it is considered a relatively rare type of cancer – nearly 2000 people were diagnosed in 2014 – the high mortality rate and increasing incidence of diagnosis has been concerning, researcher Barbara de Graaff says.
Rates were highest in the Northern Territory, mostly due to a higher prevalence of hepatitis B and C.
A fifth of all cancers in people receiving HIV care in North America between 2000 and 2015 was due to smoking, according to US research published this month in advance online by the journal AIDS.
“In the United States, the prevalence of smoking among HIV-infected people is substantially higher than in the general population, and most HIV-infected individuals either currently smoke or have previously smoked,” comment the authors. “Our findings indicated that a substantial fraction of cancer diagnoses among HIV-infected individuals potentially would not have occurred if they had never smoked.”
Thanks to improvements in HIV treatment and care, most people with HIV now have a normal or near-normal life expectancy. As these people age, non-AIDS-related cancers are an important cause of death.
This joint Position Statement aims to strongly refute and reject the findings of the Cochrane Review report titled Direct-acting antivirals for chronic hepatitis C, published by the Cochrane Hepato‐Biliary Group on 6 June 2017.
The Position Statement was prepared by the expert panel who published a Consensus Statement for Australian recommendations for the management of hepatitis C for virus infection representing the Gastroenterological Society of Australia (Australian Liver Association), the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine, the Australasian Hepatology Association, Hepatitis Australia and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
The organisations above developed this position statement to urge health practitioners and patients not to be swayed by this flawed report claiming new direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for hepatitis C do not save lives.
SA Health & SHINE SA are promoting a 6-minute video providing advice for general practitioners in diagnosing, managing and contact tracing patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB), to assist in preventing serious liver disease.
It is now known that people who were previously considered to have ‘unresolved hepatitis B virus carrier state’ in fact have CHB. CHB requires lifelong recall and monitoring for disease progression, even when asymptomatic. It is estimated that South Australia has 14,400 people with CHB, 6,600 (46%) who are undiagnosed. Current clinical guidelines recommend that patients with CHB should be monitored at least annually by their GP for disease progression and suitability for anti-viral treatment.
This video provides clinical advice from the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Viral Hepatitis Centre Co-Directors Dr Edmund Tse (Head of Hepatology) and Dr David Shaw (Head of Infectious Diseases), Margery Milner (Viral Hepatitis CPC) and Dr Sam Elliott, a GP and Hepatitis B s100 Community Prescriber.