News

Call for Action on Viral Hepatitis: the Auckland Statement

Tracy Parish

11 September, 2012

More than 50 people are diagnosed with hepatitis B in Australia every day but less than five per cent actually receive treatment. One third of the estimated 170,000 people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia are currently undiagnosed.

These startling statistics have prompted action by the medical and research communities, with the release of the ‘Auckland Statement’ at the Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference underway in the New Zealand city.

Professor Margaret Hellard, Head of the Centre for Population Health, said the Burnet Institute is a signatory to the statement.

“The statement is calling for urgent action to curb avoidable deaths caused by viral hepatitis by reducing new infections and getting more people on treatment,” Professor Hellard said.

The ‘Auckland Statement’ calls for policy makers and the medical community to commit to new targets - including five per cent of hepatitis C and 10 per cent of hepatitis B patients receiving treatment annually – double the current rates. Leading virologists, clinicians and community groups attending the Conference are also supporting a key goal of the Statement to halve the rate of new hepatitis C infections by 2016.

Currently, deaths from hepatitis-related liver cancer are growing at the same pace as deaths from melanoma. It is predicted liver cancer deaths could treble by 2030 if no action is taken to curb the prevalence of the disease.

If you would like to support the ‘Auckland Statement’ initiative just go to http://www.aucklandstatement.com/sign-now and follow the prompts. The goal is to attract 2000 signatures so spread the word!

The Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) has also released Australia’s first National Hepatitis B Testing Policy to provide advice on appropriate testing pathways for all health professionals who order and interpret hepatitis B tests.

Find out more below in an excerpt from ASHM’s media release.

MEDIA RELEASE: FIRST NATIONAL HEPATITIS B TESTING POLICY TO TACKLE LIVER CANCER RATES

Monday, 10th September 2012, Auckland:

Australia’s first National Hepatitis B Testing Policy is addressing one of the country’s major public health issues, with one-third of the estimated 170,000 people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia currently undiagnosed.

Launched at the Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference in Auckland, the new policy provides advice on appropriate testing pathways for all health professionals who order and interpret hepatitis B tests.

ASHM’s Clinical Director – Viral Hepatitis, Professor Bob Batey said without appropriate monitoring or treatment, one in four people with chronic hepatitis B will die from liver cancer or liver failure.

“We can see from recent international research that appropriate treatment for chronic hepatitis B can reduce the risk of liver cancer by over 50 per cent in just a few years,” Professor Batey said.

“The clear testing pathway, illustrating the diagnostic decision making process and interpretation of results is a key feature of the new testing policy and will help health professionals to increase diagnosis and appropriate treatment rates to improve patient outcomes.

“It’s important to note that Medicare rebates apply for hepatitis B serological testing, including hepatitis B surface antigen, surface antibody and core antibody tests, as well as HBV DNA. These are available for opportunistic chronic hepatitis B testing in symptomless patients, if it is considered ‘reasonably necessary’ according to patient’s individual circumstances – such as being from a priority population.”

Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell said: “This policy outlines the importance of using interpreters or multilingual health workers, as needed, when seeking informed consent prior to testing or conveying test results. This is crucial to the health outcomes of many people living with chronic hepatitis B from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, particularly those born outside Australia in countries with higher rates of hepatitis B.”

The policy is available from www.testingportal.ashm.org.au, an online Testing Portal managed by ASHM. It contains HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B policy documents, with links to further resources to support health professionals in making informed clinical decisions. It will be updated annually to ensure its relevance and accuracy.

The Policy was launched ahead of the ‘Auckland Statement’; a call for policy makers, and the medical community, to commit to new targets, including 5 per cent of people with hepatitis C and 10 per cent of people with hepatitis B receiving treatment annually – double the current numbers.

Backed by leading virologists, clinicians and community groups, the Statement has at its core an ambitious goal to halve the rate of new hepatitis C infections by 2016.

Staff Member

Program

Country

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Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Margaret Hellard AM

Deputy Director (Programs); Adjunct Professor, Monash University, DEPM.

Telephone

+61385062304

Email

margaret.hellard@burnet.edu.au

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