End Hepatitis Now

A collaboration between the Rotary Club of Melbourne and Hepatitis Victoria/LiverWELL.

Did you know that there are almost a half a million people in Australia who are living with viral hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a simple phrase that means “inflammation of the liver”. There are many different types of hepatitis, including caused by consuming too much alcohol, certain medicines, and even auto-immune hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is a serious disease that attacks the liver and can ultimately lead to liver cancer and death.

The End Hepatitis Now program is currently presenting to Rotary Clubs of Victoria, attending online meetings and informing members of the World Health Organisations ambition to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.

Rotarians would be familiar with this type of strategy with the successful involvement in the End Polio Now initiative which has been making great strides. If we could gather the same sort of community awareness and commitment to the hepatitis program, we could be confident of success.

The program seeks to raise awareness of the “silent epidemic” of viral hepatitis. Everyone today is aware of the impact a pandemic can have on communities, but unfortunately, the hepatitis pandemic has not received the same sort of resolve as we are seeing with covid-19.

Currently in Australia there are 233,947 people living with hepatitis B and many of these people will not be aware of their condition until it is too late. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that is transmitted via blood to blood exchange, also sexually transmitted as well as passed from mother to baby. There is a very effective vaccine, but there is no cure for the condition, but it can be well managed so that people who are well looked after can expect to live a normal life.

Hepatitis C affects 227,306 Australians and is only transmitted by blood to blood exchange. There are many ways that this can happen, unsafe tattooing, body piercing, injecting drug use, but was also commonly transmitted via medical procedures before it was able to be detected. There is a safe and effective cure for hepatitis C, but no vaccine.

Many people living with viral hepatitis will have no immediate symptoms and it can take many years before irreversible damage is done. The good news is that a very simple blood test can easily test for these conditions.

If we are to eliminate viral hepatitis, we need the support of the community to help raise awareness and overcome the stigma and discrimination associated with these conditions. To find out more information go to www.hepvic.org.au and anyone with questions can contact the free call information LiverLine on 1800 703 003.