Australia: Most Hepatitis C Sufferers Failing to Access Cure
October 5, 2007
Hepatitis Australia recently reported that fewer than 2 percent of Australians with hepatitis C virus (HCV) receive treatment for the disease. Many people, including physicians, do not know enough about the treatment, which can clear HCV from 50-80 percent of patients, or they are daunted by reports of treatment side effects, said Helen McNeill, president of the group.
Of the 260,000 Australians with HCV, only about 3,500 are undergoing treatment, said McNeill. And only about 12 percent of Australians polled knew HCV could be treated said the group, which released its poll to coincide with National Hepatitis C Awareness Week.
"A lot of [general practitioners] aren't as informed about the treatment as they should be," said McNeill. "Or perhaps they had a patient on it who had a nasty time and so don't refer their patients to a specialist."
Patients may also steer clear of treatment due to disease-related stigma - about 83 percent of patients contracted HCV through injection drug use. HCV is the leading cause of liver transplants, and the disease kills about 5 percent of those infected.
McNeill acknowledged the decision to undergo treatment should not be taken lightly, since it lasts six to 12 months. "Certainly the side effects can be very nasty ... [but they] are better managed these days than they used to be." She emphasized that a change last year to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme meant most people with HCV can depend on the government to subsidize their treatment.
Australian Associated Press
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.