An injection of $6.5 million Federal Government funds to address chronic hepatitis C rates in Australia aims to target areas of high incidence of the disease, including drug treatment clinics, needle and syringe programs and prisons.
Flinders University’s International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing will join forces with the Kirby Institute at UNSW to deliver the additional hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing at 65 sites around the country. More than 130,000 people have chronic hepatitis C in Australia, according to Hepatitis Australia.
The program, to confirm active hep C infections at locations of higher risk, and start treatment immediately, will not only increase testing around the country but work on treatment and better cures to reduce infection rates and help to eliminate viral hepatitis as a major public health threat.
Dr Susan Matthews, deputy director of the Flinders University International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing, says the National Hepatitis C Point-of-Care Testing Program will use a Class IV in-vitro diagnostic test as the HCV assay.
“We will help to design and deliver the program’s training resources, set up connectivity between the 65 independently selected POC sites, and contribute to public health promotion and education through the national program,” says Dr Matthews, who will be assisted by other experts including research scientist Corey Markus and Flinders University Distringuished Professor Mark Shephard, director of the Flinders International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing.
Many people living with hepatitis C are not aware they have it, so innovative methods are necessary to increase testing. The new program will include the development of standard operating procedures, logistics, deployment, operator training, and external quality assurance.