Home / News / NTAHC Media Release - 10.4.2018

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NTAHC Media Release - 10.4.2018

AIVL report underpins NTAHC efforts to address high rates of hepatitis C in the NT

A new report compiled by the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) recommends enhanced access to NSPs throughout the country in order to help reduce blood-borne virus transmission. The report underpins NTAHC’s efforts to expand access to NSP services in the Northern Territory and address our disproportionally high rates of chronic hepatitis C.

A new report released yesterday by AIVL, entitled Needle and Syringe Programs in Australia: Peer-led Best Practice, draws on consultations with people who inject drugs (PWID) across the country and their experience in Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) settings to inform a series of recommendations on how to increase access to NSPs and align the quality of service provided.

The report underpins NTAHC’s efforts to expand access to NSP services in the NT with a view to address disproportionally high rates of chronic hepatitis C (CHC). If left untreated, CHC can lead to serious liver disease, liver cancer and liver failure. In Australia, most new hepatitis C infections are related to the sharing of injecting equipment. As long as new infections of hepatitis C continue to occur, prevention efforts must be strengthened and remain targeted towards PWID.

NTAHC strongly advocates for prevention efforts in safe, non-judgemental NSP settings, where staff can provide information and resources to assist PWID to take greater agency over their health outcomes. The AIVL report evaluates NSPs currently in operation across Australia and makes a series of recommendations about ways to increase access to NSPs and augment the quality of service.

Their recommendations include:

  • Positioning NSPs as a core part of Australia's health system
  • Ensuring funding allows for flexibility of service delivery
  • Ensuring a diverse array of NSP options and consistency of client experience
  • Maximising the widest availability of injecting equipment
  • Developing pathways for employment of peers and encourage peer-employment outside of primary NSPs
  • Ensuring that peer workers are adequately supported in the workplace

“We welcome the release of this comprehensive, peer-driven report by our colleagues at AIVL and encourage policy-makers to take note of its findings” said Kerrie Jordan, NTAHC Executive Director, “If implemented, the report’s recommendations would go a long way towards helping us address the unique challenges NTAHC faces in our efforts to reduce hepatitis C transmission in the NT. The Territory is comprised of a relatively small population spanning a huge landmass, meaning that access to NSP services can prove difficult for a lot of people. This fact was borne out in the recently released 2016 Hepatitis C Mapping Project, which estimates the prevalence of hepatitis C in the NT to be 1.87% of the population - the highest prevalence in the country and double the national average! Treatment uptake in the NT is the second lowest amongst Australia’s Public Health Networks, standing at 9.4%”.

“While NTAHC operates 3 primary NSPs out of Alice Springs, Darwin and Palmerston, we still struggle to provide easy access to sterile injecting equipment, and must often forego the valuable opportunities that NSP settings provide staff to communicate hepatitis C testing and treatment options to people who use our services”, continued Kerrie.

“For example, the directly-acting antiviral (DAA) medications added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in 2016 improve the chance of being cured of hepatitis C to more than 90 per cent in many cases. Greater access to NSPs would mean greater opportunity to relay this message to those accessing the service so that they can get tested and tested easily and efficiently”.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kerrie Jordan, Executive Director, NTAHC

Phone: 08 8944 7777

Email: kerrie.jordan@ntahc.org.au

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