Blood-borne viruses on the rise in Western Australia

The Western Australian Department of Health has launched an eight-week regional advertising campaign to raise awareness of blood-borne viruses, following almost 1000 cases of hepatitis C having been reported in 12 months.

Communicable Disease Control Director Dr Paul Armstrong said that this was a timely reminder for people to get tested.

“Blood-borne viruses – such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV – are transmitted by blood. Hepatitis B and HIV can also be transmitted through sexual activity,” said Dr Armstrong.

“People with blood-borne viruses often look and feel healthy, so they do not have indications that they are living with a blood-borne virus.”

“If you are at risk, get tested and look after your blood.”

The campaign was developed in consultation with Aboriginal health workers and leaders from regional and metropolitan areas to ensure it resonated with Aboriginal people, who have higher rates of diagnosis of blood-borne viruses than non-Aboriginal people.

The campaign – which consists of radio, online and social media advertising – uses key messages such as ‘Look after your blood’ and ‘Never share needles’ to help increase awareness of HIV and hepatitis C.

“Hepatitis C cases have remained high in the Aboriginal population, while steadily falling in the non-Aboriginal population. In Western Australia, hepatitis C notifications in Aboriginal people are 13-times higher than reported among non-Aboriginal people.”

Dr Armstrong said the proportion of newly diagnosed HIV infections in Western Australia attributed to injecting drug use was also much higher in Aboriginal people than non-Aboriginal people.

“It is vital to increase awareness among Aboriginal people that by sharing injecting equipment, such as needles, they can make themselves sick and this can impact on their communities,” he said.

“A range of treatments are now making it possible for people with blood-borne viruses to continue to live long and healthy lives if the virus is detected early.”

“These treatments, with few side effects, are now available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and provide a cure for 95 per cent of people with chronic hepatitis C. Highly effective treatments are also available for people living with HIV. I encourage you to talk to your doctor or health provider about getting a free test.”

For more information about blood-borne viruses visit HealthyWA or Could I have it.

Source: Media Release

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