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Western Vic Regional Forum to fight viral hepatitis scourge

13 November 2017

A forum in Ararat on 21st November will give Western Victoria’s health and community workers training and the most up to date knowledge on the latest treatments tackling the scourge of viral hepatitis, a pandemic disease impacting the lives of an estimated 100,000 Victorians.

Ararat Rural City Mayor Glenda McLean said she applauded the initiative of Hepatitis Victoria in arranging the forum in Ararat. 

"Hepatitis is a misunderstood and feared disease, but the focus on management and treatment, including the hepatitis C cure is welcome news for our community and the broader Western District," she said.

Martin Forrest, Hepatitis Victoria’s Health Promotion Programs Manager said despite the disease being so prevalent and deadly -killing up to 6 Victorians every week- viral hepatitis has a very low profile and remains shrouded in ignorance and stigma.

“Close to half a million Australians are living with some form of chronic hepatitis, it’s a ‘silent epidemic’ but the good news is with the new treatments it can be eliminated,” he said.

New and more effective drugs have been introduced which have revolutionised the approach to treatment particularly for hepatitis C.

“In the past hepatitis was managed purely in the hospital setting, but now primary care plays a key role in eliminating the disease, so we will be looking at both hepatitis B and hepatitis C,” Martin said.

“The forum will not only raise awareness, it will provide the latest updates regarding treatment and management of viral hepatitis and news about the hep C cure, -it’s also a professional development opportunity,” he said.

“Its three or four years since we held an event in the western region and in that time the options available and referral pathways have totally changed. The forum is a great opportunity to build new networks and learn knowledge that will really help people in the area who have this condition,” Martin said.

The forum is not just for those involved in clinical support but also people in social and community health services such as homelessness services.

“We now have the ability to eliminate hepatitis, but to do that we need to have the support of health, social and community workers,” Martin said.

On World Hepatitis Day in July 2016, the Victorian Government launched Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C Strategies, a roadmap for eliminating the burden of viral hepatitis in the state between now and 2030 through prevention initiatives, more testing and treatment, and reducing the stigma and discrimination surrounding the condition.

The Department of Health and Human Services is supporting the forum.

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