A new national program aiming to help eliminate hepatitis C in Australia by 2030 is calling on GPs and other health professionals working in primary care to help locate the estimated 50,000 Australians who may be unaware they have the virus.
Following a successful pilot program, the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) has launched partnership program, Beyond the C, as part of a national push to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030.
Left untreated, hepatitis C infection can lead to the development of liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. Hepatitis C infection is the most common cause of liver disease requiring liver transplantation in Australia. This is despite significant advances in treatment options that have a 95% efficacy in curing the disease.
ASHM Chief Executive Officer Alexis Apostolellis says that increased testing is critical to eliminating hepatitis C, yet, testing is on the decline, with reduced testing activity in 2020 and 2021 across ACCESS sites.
“General Practice staff are at the frontline in helping identify those in the community with hepatitis C,” he says.
“This program is helping doctors and practices scale up their existing systems to identify patients and screen at-risk groups.
“Beyond the C assists general practice staff with alternative search criteria for data extraction to identify patients with active hepatitis C and also provides ongoing education and resources to manage hepatitis C cases.”
The expansion of this program is also considered an important step in helping general practices identify and manage other chronic diseases and conditions through broader application of the case finding and auditing techniques the program applies.
Trial programs of Beyond the C that ran across Australia through select GP clinics in 2021 showed strong results.
General Practitioner from Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service, Dr Lakhbinder Kang, said Beyond the C allowed their practice to identify 400 patients with hepatitis C, thanks to the case-finding support.
“Beyond the C provided a structured supportive auditing process to focus on treating hepatitis C. As of February 2023, our treatment rate is 83%,” Dr Kang said.
Similarly, Quinns Mindarie Super Clinic Clinical Manager, Heather Drummond, said Beyond the C helped their clinic diagnose 47 additional patients and helped better educate clinicians on hepatitis C management.
“Identifying and treating patients for a disease is a rewarding population health activity. It has also been rewarding to upskill our clinical team around the management of hepatitis C and to see how this has been embedded in our practice,” she said.
“I’m passionate about health promotion. And now, with a new medicine that can not only treat, but cure hepatitis C in the majority of cases, we just need more people to get tested, especially those at risk of having hepatitis C. Beyond the C helps make this testing and screening process so much easier.”
ASHM is asking people working in general practice across Australia to join the Beyond the C program to help identify and support patients, improve their wellbeing and help us eliminate hepatitis C.
There is a $1,500 incentive for practices who complete the program.
To help eliminate hepatitis C by 2030, sign up to Beyond the C today.
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