“I am a Hep Hero because I work towards breaking down the barriers to enhance access to hepatitis C care and treatment for people who inject drugs”
I was born in Calgary, Canada. I started working in field of hepatitis C during my PhD in Vancouver, Canada in 2005. My work was primarily focused on developing a novel model to improve access to hepatitis C care and treatment for people who inject drugs in the inner city of Vancouver in collaboration with nurses, physicians, social workers, and peers.
We established a weekly peer support group to provide a place where people who inject drugs could learn from each other about hepatitis C without judgment or stigmatization.
I learned a lot about hepatitis C and its effects first hand from people with lived experience and this has motivated me to do the work that I do today.
For the past decade, I have worked in Sydney, Australia at the Kirby Institute at UNSW. My work has focused on trying to better understand the barriers and facilitators to improving access to HCV care for people who inject drugs.
I have sought to investigate novel interventions to improve hepatitis C testing, linkage to care and treatment to improve the lives of those living with the infection. Also, I have worked hard to build the evidence base demonstrating that people who inject drugs with hepatitis C should not be excluded from access to therapy.
I have used this research to advocate for the inclusion of people who inject drugs as a priority population in clinical recommendations for the management of hepatitis C infection.
I hope that this work has contributed to changes in clinical practice and policy to improve the lives of those living with hepatitis C.
Despite the overwhelming evidence demonstrating that hepatitis C treatment is safe and effective among people who inject drugs, many providers still withhold therapy for this population.
In fact, in some countries, people with recent drug and alcohol use are not eligible for the reimbursement of government-funded medications.
Withholding therapy from people who inject drugs lacks an evidence base, is unethical and further perpetuates the stigma and discrimination often experienced by people living with hepatitis C infection.
It is my hope that through my research, we can continue to advocate for universal access to hepatitis C therapy for everyone living with the disease so we can achieve the elimination of hepatitis C in Australia and globally.
Jason’s message to others
We have entered one of the most exciting eras in clinical medicine in recent decades with the availability of tolerable, simple and highly effective therapies for hepatitis C infection. As such, there is a realistic possibility of achieving the elimination of hepatitis C in the next decade.
However, it will require the concerted effort of researchers, practitioners, policy makers and perhaps most importantly, the affected community. Only together will we achieve this realistic and imminent goal.
I have learnt that with drive, determination, and enthusiasm, any goal is attainable. But, we are not in this alone. To have a major impact, it requires the collaboration and efforts of many people working collectively.