Reaching the 170,000+ Australians who have yet to start life-saving hepatitis C treatment is the driving force behind Eliminate Hepatitis C Australia (EC Australia).
EC Australia, launched at Parliament House by Federal Health Minister, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, in partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation, is a multi-million dollar targeted, national response to the serious decline in the uptake of highly effective drugs to cure hepatitis C among Australians living with the deadly virus.
Co-ordinated by Burnet Institute, the EC Australia partnership aims to:
- Eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat in Australia by 2030
- Inform government policy
- Increase hepatitis C awareness, testing and treatment for high risk and vulnerable communities.
“I wish to congratulate Burnet Institute and its partners in working together to ensure all people living with hepatitis C have the opportunity access to direct-acting antivirals including the most vulnerable,” Minister Hunt said.
Federal Opposition Leader, the Hon Bill Shorten MP also supported the launch of EC Australia, remarking that the initiative could assist Australia in reaching its goal of eliminating hepatitis C by 2030.
Image: Federal Opposition Leader, the Hon Bill Shorten MP.
“We’re all here for something real, something meaningful tonight. That’s the power of the Burnet Institute and the work you do – and it’s the commitment all of us share to supporting your research and the advances it drives,” Mr Shorten said.
“Your research means we can tackle the cause – and change the effect.
“We can look at immediate, practical results, at a hope that is real and present.
That’s a great credit to you - and it’s a source of tremendous inspiration for all of us.”
For the first time, EC Australia, funded through an AUD$11.33million grant from the Paul Ramsay Foundation, will bring together researchers, scientists, government, health services and community organisations to deliver a coordinated national response.
EC Australia Chief Investigator and Burnet Deputy Director, Professor Margaret Hellard said it’s critical for Australians infected with hepatitis C to be tested, treated and cured to stop the transmission of new infections and hepatitis C-related deaths.
“Many people don’t know their status, many are discouraged from seeking treatment because of stigma, and it’s a tragedy that they are missing out on life-saving therapies which are so readily available,” Professor Hellard said.
“We now have the opportunity and the tools to eliminate this disease as a public health threat. EC Australia can make sure the tools are applied effectively to improve community health and make Australia a world leader in the elimination of hepatitis C.”
Image: Chief Executive Officer of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Simon Freeman
Chief Executive Officer of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Simon Freeman is proud to support this national initiative and emphasises that the timing of this partnership is critical.
“As an organisation, we are committed to supporting programs that address disadvantage amongst the Australian community and sadly hepatitis C is closely linked with disadvantage,” Mr Freeman said.
“But it can be cured, and with the treatments currently made available by the Federal government, we feel that this is an opportune time for us to step in and support this initiative in the hope that we can break the cycle of hepatitis C - Improving prevention and ensuring treatment access for anyone who needs it.”
Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC said eliminating hepatitis C from Australia would be an enormous humanitarian, scientific and economic achievement.
“The effort itself is an emphatic statement that the health of all Australians is important, no matter what their circumstance,” Professor Crabb said.
“Elimination of this insidious disease is an ambitious but achievable goal, hugely helped by the wonderful announcement today of the Ramsay Foundation joining the challenge in such a spectacular way.”
Since 2016, 58,000 Australians have commenced HCV treatment, including 43,000 in the first 15 months, but the numbers have fallen every month since.
A further 170,000 Australians, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people who have injected drugs, prisoners, and gay and bisexual men, are estimated to be living with hepatitis C.
Burnet Institute and Paul Ramsay Foundation Board members and executive staff including (L-R) Mr Brian Graetz, Professor Brendan Crabb AC, Associate Professor Helen Evans AO, Mr Rob Milne, Professor Margaret Hellard, Ms Miche Paterson, Mr Greg Hutchinson AM, and Mr Simon Freeman.