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  • Govt called to act on hepatitis death rate

    Author: AAP

A peak body representing hepatitis sufferers says governments need to act to prevent a "tidal wave" of life-threatening liver disease.

Hepatitis-related liver diseases are killing 1000 Australians a year and the burden is increasing, the peak body representing sufferers says.

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Hepatitis Australia, which represents the half a million Australians with viral hepatitis, has called for immediate government intervention to prevent a "tidal wave" of life-threatening liver disease.

The group's chief executive Helen Tyrrell told the Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference in Alice Springs progress was slow on four-year targets to reduce rates of infection, improve diagnosis and bolster treatment numbers by 2016.

"It is to the nation's shame that hepatitis-related liver disease now claims 1000 lives a year," Ms Tyrrell said.

Ms Tyrrell said the number of lives being lost to HIV/AIDS peaked in Australia 20 years ago at 738 before a swift and effective national response led to a marked turnaround in mortality.

"We need to achieve the same outcome for hepatitis B and C and quickly - we don't have the luxury of time," Ms Tyrrell said.

She said Australia was failing in a number of areas that are key to the prevention of hepatitis.

There are no need and syringe supply programs in prisons and little is being done to remove the barriers to treatment for hepatitis B and C or provide access to new hepatitis medicines, she said.

Access to free hepatitis B vaccinations for adults in high-risk groups is patchy at best, Ms Tyrrell said, and key communities are not being screened.

She said state and federal health ministers have the opportunity to emulate what was achieved with HIV over the past decades.

"We know what is required to reduce infection rates, improve diagnosis and increase treatment rates but these ambitions will remain pipedreams without funding support and policy change," Ms Tyrrell said.

Copyright AAP 2014.


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