Many people with the hepatitis C virus fail to receive ongoing care to lower the risk of complications.
Up to 70 per cent of Victorians with suspected hepatitis C may not have received follow-up testing, putting them at risk of chronic liver disease and even cancer, University of Melbourne researchers say.
Testing rates for the disease—which affects almost 10 times more Australians than HIV—were lowest among young people aged 15-24, representing a massive missed opportunity for treatment before the disease becomes serious, according to a paper in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Lead author Kathryn Snow, of the University’s School of Population and Global Health, warned that liver cancer rates—which have tripled in Australia since 1982—could spiral without a concerted effort to raise awareness of hepatitis C among GPs and people living with the disease.
“Our research tells us that the highest rates of follow-up testing are among people aged 65 and over —potentially after decades of chronic, irreversible liver damage, which could have been prevented,” Ms Snow said.
The project, led by Ben Cowie of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, compared hepatitis C notification data from 2001-2012 to the number of Medicare claims for the two follow-up tests recommended for people with suspected Hepatitis C.
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