24 Aug 2018

$11 million grant for eliminating Hepatitis C

Professor Margaret Hellard is
Deputy Director of the Burnet Institute
The Paul Ramsay Foundation has made an $11.33 million grant to the Eliminate Hepatitis C Australia (EC Australia) project' which aims to eradicate the virus as a health threat in Australia by 2030. The project is being administered through the Burnet Institute, and several researchers adjunct with the two large Monash schools, Central Clinical and Public Health and Preventive Medicine, at the Alfred Health precinct are involved.

Hepatitis C is a silent killer causing liver cancer and cirrhosis if undetected and untreated. Medications that can cure people have been subsidised via the PBS until 2021, but over 170,000 Australians have either not sought treatment, or remain unaware they are infected. Many of them are from vulnerable, high-risk groups that can be difficult to reach, such as prisoners, men who have sex with men, people who have injected drugs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Reaching these people is the driving force behind the project.

EC Australia was launched at Parliament House by Federal Health Minister, the Hon Greg Hunt MP. EC Australia is coordinated by our AMREP partners at Burnet Institute, with Burnet Deputy Director and School Adjunct Professor Margaret Hellard acting as Chief Investigator. Professor Mark Stoove and Dr Alisa Pedrana are also involved, as is Dr Joseph Doyle from Monash’s Central Clinical School.

The project also aims to inform government policy in the space, and increase general awareness about the infection, and testing and treatment options, especially for high risk and vulnerable communities.

Professor Hellard said “Many people don’t know their status, many are discouraged from seeking treatment because of stigma, and it’s a tragedy that they are missing out on life-saving therapies which are so readily available.”

We now have the opportunity and the tools to eliminate this disease as a public health threat. EC Australia can make sure the tools are applied effectively to improve community health and make Australia a world leader in the elimination of hepatitis C.”

Chief Executive Officer of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Simon Freeman said “As an organisation, we are committed to supporting programs that address disadvantage amongst the Australian community and sadly hepatitis C is closely linked with disadvantage.”

It can be cured, and with the treatments currently made available by the Federal government, we feel that this is an opportune time for us to step in and support this initiative in the hope that we can break the cycle of hepatitis C - Improving prevention and ensuring treatment access for anyone who needs it.”

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