Higher Hepatitis C rate on the way down as nurses tackle stigma

STIGMA: Debra Goodacre, Trevor Slatery and Ann Ryan all took help run the Hepatitis C clinic on Thursday. Photo: MAX STAINKAMPH 0726MShepc1
STIGMA: Debra Goodacre, Trevor Slatery and Ann Ryan all took help run the Hepatitis C clinic on Thursday. Photo: MAX STAINKAMPH 0726MShepc1

Health professionals in Orange want Hepatitis C eradicated by 2030. 

Charity Hepatitis NSW has been increasing its presence in Orange, and held an information day on Thursday to help provide awareness and assistance to those with the disease.

Hepatology registered nurse Debra Goodacre was one of the people involved in organising and running the session at the Kite Street Community Health Centre, and said it was a big step in helping alleviate Hepatitis C’s stigma. 

The disease is stigmatised due to association with intravenous drug use – Hepatitis C is most commonly spread through shared needles – and Ms Goodacre said medical professionals had misdiagnosed and stigmatised those with disease for years

A former Hepatitis C patient, who is also a peer support worker from Hepatitis NSW, spoke to about 40 people who have the disease on Thursday, and Ms Goodacre said it was fantastic to see people responding positively to the talk. 

I’m often beating my drum about it but having someone who’d been through it was really helpful.

Debra Goodacre

“The peer support worker was approaching people and asking questions about their health and Hepatitis C, if they have any risk factors and asking about treatment and getting them to come here,” she said. 

“I work part time in the methadone clinic so I see a lot of the people who visited on Thursday, but having the support worker come in and talk to us.

“Because I’m quite often in the methadone clinic I’m often beating my drum about it but having someone who’d been through it was really helpful.” 

There are an estimated 900 people in Orange currently living with Hepatitis C, with 1.55 per cent of the population diagnosed with the disease, which is several points higher than the national average. 

However, treatment uptake has been relatively low with only 163 people treated as at February 2017 – just under 20 per cent, with the national average 12 per cent. 

There are an estimated 200,000 Australians living with hepatitis C. Left untreated, hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. 

Ms Goodacre and other medical professionals are urging people diagnosed with hepatitis C to come forward and talk to their GP about treatment options, with new medication due to be announced by the NSW government.