Discrimination in the blood
25 September 2018
A new podcast from Hepatitis Victoria explores the reasons behind this and other discriminatory barriers and what they mean for the ‘post-cure’ hepatitis C generation.
An estimated 60,000 people have been cured of hepatitis C in Australia since the introduction of Direct Acting Antivirals (DAAs) in 2016, yet because they once had the disease, Australian Red Cross rules say they will never be able to donate their blood.
In contrast, people who have made a full recovery from hepatitis B can donate their blood 12 months after.
“We are looking at ways of reducing the legal barriers for someone who has been cured of hepatitis C, particularly in light of the increasing number of people who have been cured since the introduction of DAAs,” Emily says.
“The cure rate is over 95% and the risk of late relapse once a person has completed treatment is really rare as the virus doesn’t seem to hide in the body anywhere and reappear at a later date.
“Once someone has completed treatment they can be considered cured,” she says.
The Australian Red Cross Guidelines are, if you have had hepatitis C or have been cured, you can never donate blood. In addition, if you have had sex with a partner who has had hepatitis C in the last 12 months you are not allowed to donate.
“Blood donation is only one aspect of a person’s life, but these policies can label a person as ‘risky’ and continue the stigmatisation of people in society once they have been cured,” Amy adds.
There have been a number of calls to the Hepatitis Infoline from people enquiring about their rights after cure, and asking about the restrictions on people who have sexual intercourse with people who have been cured of hepatitis C.
A recent development, in September 2018, the Australian Red Cross changed its guidelines allowing people who inject drugs to donate 5 years after their last injection event. “It’s a glimmer of hope,” Emily says.
The students say their research is unique because it is only recently that a large number of people who have had hepatitis C have been cured, and the rights of these people and the legal barriers that prevent them from participating in society are only now being examined.
What would Emily and Amy like to accomplish with this research? “We would like The Australian Red Cross Blood Service to carry out a similar review, as occurred for injecting drug users, to be undertaken in regard to those cured of hepatitis C and to get a change in policy to allow donation after a 5 year or 12-month deferral,” Amy says.
Emily also does volunteer work with Fitzroy Legal Service and they both have an interest in law reform. Their research explores stigma and barriers people face post-cure of hepatitis C. in particular The Australian Red Cross Blood Service Blood Donation Guidelines. Tak a look at their powerpoint presentation on the issue and listen to the podcast.