Status:
Active
Health advisory:
170011
Date Issued:
27 Sep 2018 - update to Advisory issued 8 November 2017
Issued by:
Dr Brett Sutton, Acting Chief Health Officer, Victoria
Issued to:
Alcohol and Other Drug and Opioid Substitution Therapy workforces

Key messages

  • In 2016 in Victoria, there were approximately 56,000 people living with chronic hepatitis B and approximately 65,000 living with chronic hepatitis C.
  • The largest risk factor for acquiring hepatitis C is through sharing drug-injecting equipment.
  • The Victorian Government is committed to eliminating hepatitis B and hepatitis C as public health concerns, and eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with these diseases.
  • The Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) and Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) workforces are critical to the drive to eliminate hepatitis B and hepatitis C by 2030, and are encouraged to be adequately informed about viral hepatitis to educate and encourage clients, where appropriate, to be tested and treated for hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C.
  • Undertake training: There are a number of organisations funded to deliver hepatitis services and training courses (and some free services) that are listed below.

What is the issue?

The Victorian Government is committed to eliminating hepatitis B and hepatitis C as public health concerns, and eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with these diseases.

The Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) and Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) workforces are critical to the drive to eliminate hepatitis B and hepatitis C by 2030, and are encouraged to be adequately informed about viral hepatitis to educate and encourage clients, where appropriate, to be tested and treated for hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C.

The largest risk factor for acquiring hepatitis C is through sharing drug-injecting equipment. Hepatitis B is spread through mother-to-child transmission, unprotected sex, sharing unsterile injecting or piercing equipment or other activities where the blood of an infected person enters your bloodstream.

The release of a range of new hepatitis C direct acting anti-viral (DAA) treatments on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in March 2016 has been a positive step in the elimination process, especially as they provide cure rates of up to 95 per cent. While there is not a cure for hepatitis B, immunisation is available for free for at-risk populations in Victoria.

Nationally, in 2016, an estimated 32,400 individuals initiated DAA treatment. Unfortunately, the number of treatment initiations is dropping and it is anticipated that DAA uptake in 2017 will be lower than 32,400, and could be less than 25,000. Elimination of hepatitis C by 2030 requires a sustained DAA uptake of around (nationally) 20,000 per year and AOD teams are critical to this goal.

What education is available?

Hepatitis Victoria

Hepatitis Victoria is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and is the peak body representing people living with, or at risk of, viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis Victoria is running free training on viral hepatitis for AOD workers in Victoria.

Find out more: contact Steven Taylor on 0452 509 985 or email admin@hepvic.org.au.

Harm Reduction Victoria

Harm Reduction Victoria (HRV) is a peer-based drug user organisation for the state of Victoria. HRV is a member of the national network of drug user organisations, headed by Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL). They offer a range of training programs/sessions for peers, AOD consumers and AOD workers in a range of settings.
HRV have partnered with the Victorian Primary Health Networks to provide hepatitis C lived experience education to health professionals attending blood-borne virus education.

They also partner with the Victorian Viral Hepatitis Educator at St Vincent's Hospital.

To enquire or for more information, please contact Sam Jones on 9329 1500.

Victorian Viral Hepatitis Educator - St Vincent's Hospital (Gabrielle Bennett)

This position is funded by DHHS to provide tailored education in the workplace. In addition to the partnership with Harm Reduction Victoria, Gabrielle responds to and provides many free education sessions to AOD teams in community health and AOD services such as Turning Point, SHARC and within hospitals. The sessions are all advertised through the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA), Drug and Alcohol Nurses Association (DANA) and Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation - AOD special interest group.

Please contact Gabrielle on 9288 3586  or email gabrielle.bennett@svhm.org.au.

Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) / Victorian HIV and Hepatitis Integrated Training and Learning (VHHITAL) program

Training on hepatitis C to the AOD workforce across Australia is available from ASHM. Information on this training is available at the ASHM website.

VHHITAL is funded by the Victorian Government to design and provide hepatitis C education to the primary care workforce, including the AOD sector.

ASHM and VHHITAL partner to deliver Hep C in Drug and Alcohol settings education sessions.

For further information about VHHITAL, please email vhhital@nwmphn.org.au or call (03) 9347 1188.

Penington Institute

Penington provide professional development for the AOD sector on a range of AOD topics including blood-borne viruses. The resources are supported by training that is being delivered free of charge within Victoria.

Penington Institute has also developed a series of videos and factsheets and supporting training to help mainstream Needle and Syringe Programs (NSP), Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, and other frontline services better respond to injecting ice use by their clients.

For more information, or to book as session, please email: info@penington.org.au.

What hepatitis C service supports are available?

In addition to all of these training opportunities the following organisations also provide hepatitis C service supports:

The EC Partnership provides in-clinic hepatitis C education/capacity building for high case load AOD clinics - learn more at the EC Partnership website.

Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Inc.(VACCHO)

VACCHO Education and Training Unit is a Registered Training Organisation and provides Aboriginal Health Worker training to its sector. VACCHO Offers a range of short courses - for further information please contact the Education and Training unit at training@vaccho.org.au or on 03 9411 9411.

The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS)

The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society provides blood-borne virus pre- and post- test discussion courses that attract a high number of AOD workers. For further information please contact Jen Johnson on 9479 8715 or at j.johnson@latrobe.edu.au.

Where can I get more information?

Hepatitis C advice at the Better Health Channel

Be Free from hep C

Hep C HelpLine - Helping healthcare working navigate hepatitis C management