Dr Fran Bramwell
“I am a HEP Hero because I believe people with viral hepatitis have a right to better health and I enjoy my role in this journey.”
I became aware of the consequences of chronic viral hepatitis whilst working overseas in developing countries. I was even involved in mass vaccination campaigns that I now realize may have spread viral hepatitis. In emergency situations these days different technologies and resources are much improved.
I moved from the refugee health sector to work with people who inject drugs in 2001. I have been an advocate for primary care management of hepatitis C since then and despite some opposition from some within the tertiary sector have persevered. Till 2016 the numbers our team at Health Works have treated has been minuscule.
The evolution of the Direct Acting Antivirals for the treatment and cure of hepatitis C has made the eradication of hepatitis C within reach. Our work needs to continue to ensure all people who inject have expanded access to safe injecting equipment, hepatitis B vaccination and HIV prevention measures.
The message that there is safe, effective, short duration treatment of hepatitis C needs to be common knowledge in all communities, not just in communities that are more directly affected by the epidemic. I really feel that there needs to be a coordinated whole of Australia awareness campaign.
Using those from affected communities such as people who inject or people from countries of high viral hepatitis prevalence to inform and assist in the development and implementation, will ensure that messages are sensitive, relevant and de-stigmatising as much as possible .
The biggest barrier to the success of current campaigns and treatment initiatives is the enormous stigma associated with both hepatitis C and hepatitis B.
Whole of population education and increased engagement of the health and social welfare sectors with affected groups such as injecting drug users would increase treatment uptake and also assist in the long term engagement with health providers around an issue that is about achieving a positive health outcome i.e. , the cure of hepatitis C or the optimal management of hepatitis B.
Australia has a major role to play in showcasing our commitment and assisting our neighbors. I have learnt so much from the people I see in clinic and also from approaches to communicable disease health promotion in Asia and Africa. We can share our knowledge and experiences and work together towards eradication of hepatitis C and improved management of hepatitis B.