The Ministry of Health has congratulated New Zealand’s first ever Hepatitis Elimination Champion.
Today is World Hepatitis Day – the World Health Organization’s key theme for which is finding the missing millions and working towards a Hepatitis-free future.
Eliminating Hepatitis C from New Zealand has been a large focus for the health sector over the past two years, with the introduction last year of a fully-funded anti-viral called Maviret.
“Because Maviret is so available to people, there are now 10 percent fewer people with the virus, than there were when Maviret was introduced – that’s a drop of 5,000 people infected,” says Jane Chambers, Group Manager of Population Health and Prevention at the Ministry.
“Helping in the fight against Hepatitis C has been crucial. Education, testing and awareness are all critical. That’s what’s seen hepatitis campaigner Jo de Lisle selected by the Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination as New Zealand’s first ever Elimination Champion.
“Jo received that recognition for her work around a community-focused Hepatitis C education, testing and elimination programme.
“The Coalition received nominations from at least 17 countries, and it says Jo’s programme provides a template which should be adopted worldwide.”
Jane Chambers says part of the plan to help WHO ‘find the missing millions’ involves a new Hepatitis C action plan to support health services to find and treat those who may still not know they’re infected with the virus.
This is currently in development.
"Testing remains absolutely crucial to beating Hepatitis C.
“An estimated 45,000 New Zealanders may have Hepatitis C but still don’t know it. That’s why it’s so important that people who are most at risk, for example those who have ever injected drugs, should contact their primary health professional to ask about getting tested, so they can start their treatment.
"One of the biggest aspects holding people back from getting tested or seeking treatment is the stigma associated with some of the risk factors. We want people to feel comfortable being tested and treated - it is not important how someone became infected, just that they may be infected and need treatment," says Jane Chambers.
The Ministry currently funds a total of $1.9 million per annum for DHB regions to provide integrated, accessible, and sustainable identification testing, assessment and treatment services for people with hepatitis C.
Maviret has been fully-funded since 1 February 2019. It requires just one daily dose for a minimum of 8 weeks. There’s no requirement for pre-treatment genotype testing, and it’s hoped that change is likely to make prescribing by general practitioners and other community-based prescribers more straight forward.