Consensus recommendations on the management of hepatitis C in Australia’s prisons

Rebecca J Winter, Yumi Sheehan, Timothy Papaluca, Graeme A Macdonald, Joy Rowland, Anton Colman, Mark Stoove, Andrew R Lloyd and Alexander J Thompson
Med J Aust 2023; 218 (5): 231-237. || doi: 10.5694/mja2.51854
Published online: 6 March 2023

Introduction: Prison settings represent the highest concentration of prevalent hepatitis C cases in Australia due to the high rates of incarceration among people who inject drugs. Highly effective direct‐acting antiviral (DAA) therapies for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are available to people incarcerated in Australian prisons. However, multiple challenges to health care implementation in the prison sector present barriers to people in prison reliably accessing hepatitis C testing, treatment, and prevention measures.
Main recommendations: This Consensus statement highlights important considerations for the management of hepatitis C in Australian prisons. High coverage testing, scale‐up of streamlined DAA treatment pathways, improved coverage of opioid agonist therapy, and implementation and evaluation of regulated provision of prison needle and syringe programs to reduce HCV infection and reinfection are needed.

Changes in management as a result of this statement: The recommendations set current best practice standards in hepatitis C diagnosis, treatment and prevention in the Australian prison sector based on available evidence. Prison‐based health services should strive to simplify and improve efficiency in the provision of the hepatitis C care cascade, including strategies such as universal opt‐out testing, point‐of‐care testing, simplified assessment protocols, and earlier confirmation of cure. Optimising hepatitis C management in prisons is essential to prevent long term adverse outcomes for a marginalised population living with HCV. Scale‐up of testing and treatment in prisons will make a major contribution towards Australia’s efforts to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat by 2030.

By J Pope

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