Australia’s progress towards hepatitis C elimination – Annual Report 2020

Australia is aiming to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat by 2030. This elimination goal is in line with global targets set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and targets included in Australia’s National Hepatitis C Strategy 2018–2022.

Prepared by Burnet Institute and the Kirby Institute, this report brings together national data sources to assess Australia’s progress towards eliminating hepatitis C. Some data were not included due to unavailability at the time of reporting; future reports will provide the most comprehensive picture possible.

Key findings
  • A decline in newly acquired hepatitis C infections appeared, using data from primary health care clinics that see people who inject drugs and gay and bisexual men.
  • Treatment uptake peaked in the months following the listing of DAAs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (March 2016) but has since slowed.
  • A decline in liver transplants with hepatitis C as the primary diagnosis. 
  • Testing for hepatitis C has declined, particularly testing for hepatitis C RNA to detect new hepatitis C infections.
  • An estimated 29 per cent of people treated in 2019 were treated in prison.
  • Stigma and discrimination towards people who inject drugs and people living with hepatitis C remains prevalent, and this raises concerns about how this may be affecting individuals’ access to healthcare.
  • A need to focus on primary prevention still exists – reports of receptive sharing needles and syringes has remained the same. Prevention efforts need to include improved access to sterile needles and syringes to reduce sharing among people who inject drugs, and expanding health promotion activities.
  • Improved access to treatment is needed in rural and remote areas – mapping of treatment uptake in Australia shows inequity in opportunity and uptake needs to be addressed.
  • Modelling in the report highlight that increasing testing, diagnosis and linkage to care is essential for Australia to achieve elimination of hepatitis C.