Services such as Needle and Syringe Programs need priority to help meet national prevention and treatment targets, says a new report.
The National Blood-borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Surveillance and Monitoring Report, 2015, produced by the Kirby Institute, found that Australia has not met government-set targets on hepatitis C prevention and treatment.
Picture: Shannon Morris
The report said that, overall, the data emphasises the “continued need to prioritise prevention programs such as needle and syringe programs, and opioid substitution treatment, as well as the need to increase the proportion of people accessing treatment, in order to reduce HCV-related burden of disease and deaths”.
According to the report, a greater number of needles and syringes was distributed in 2014 than in the previous year. In 2014, the proportion of people who inject drugs attending needle and syringe programs who reported re-using another person’s used needle and syringe (receptive syringe sharing) in the previous month was 16 per cent, similar to the 15 per cent proportion reported in 2013, and over the past 10 years.
The per capita number of needles and syringes distributed annually remained steady between 2013 and 2014 at 2.8 per capita among those aged 15 – 64 years. This equates to 44 million needles and syringes distributed, an increase of 12 per cent from 2.5 per capita in 2005 when 34 million needles and syringes were distributed.
The incidence rate of hepatitis C on repeat testing from participants in the Australian Needle and Syringe Program Survey, declined annually between 2005 and 2009, but has been increasing since 2011.
While analysis has indicated that the increases are not statistically significant, it will require ongoing monitoring.
In June 2014, Australia’s federal, state and territory health ministers endorsed five new National Strategies for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, sexually transmissible infections (STIs), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) together with a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander BBV and STI Strategy.
The strategies aim to improve testing, treatment and uptake of preventative measures and to reduce the impacts these infections cause.