September 20, 2021
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To help improve treatment times for people with hepatitis C, the Morrison government will fund a new national point-of-care testing (POCT) program that can confirm active hepatitis C infections within an hour and enable the start of treatment immediately.
The Kirby Institute at the University of NSW and the International Center for Point-of-Service Testing at Flinders University will receive a combined $ 6.5 million to establish the program.
Being able to deliver the tests and treatment in one visit is a real game-changer for people who would normally have to wait several weeks for a test result.
This technology can detect an active hepatitis C infection by taking a small amount of blood from your fingertip. This blood is analyzed on site, with a result ready for the patient within an hour. If the result is positive, treatment can begin during this same visit.
As part of this program, testing will be available nationwide at 65 sites with a high prevalence of hepatitis C infection, including drug treatment clinics, needle exchange programs and syringes and prisons.
The program will also include the development of standard operating procedures, logistics, deployment, operator training and external quality assurance.
At the end of 2018, around 129,640 people were living with chronic hepatitis C in Australia. Hepatitis C rates have been falling in Australia since the country introduced broad access to direct-acting antiviral treatments.
These treatments cure the virus in 95% of people. But many people living with hepatitis C don’t know they have it, so innovative methods are needed to scale up testing.
This major investment will increase access to hepatitis C testing, treatment and remedies across the country.
Australia is committed to the global goal of reducing the burden of viral hepatitis and eliminating viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030. Indeed, we could be one of the first countries in the world to achieve this goal.