12 September 2016

Campaign aims to reduce blood-borne virus rates in Aboriginal people

The Department of Health today launched a 10-week advertising campaign to raise awareness about prevention, testing and treatment options among Aboriginal people at risk of blood-borne viruses (BBVs).

The campaign – which consists of television, radio, online and social media advertising – uses key messages such as ‘Look after your blood’ and ‘Never share needles’ to help reduce the rates of HIV and hepatitis C in the Aboriginal population.

Communicable Disease Control Director Dr Paul Armstrong said people with blood-borne viruses often looked and felt healthy, so encouraging people at risk to get tested was a key factor in reducing BBVs.

“New diagnoses of hepatitis C have been gradually increasing in the Aboriginal population across Australia over the past five years, most commonly in 20 to 49 year olds,” he said.

“In Western Australia, hepatitis C notifications in Aboriginal people reached a 10-year high in 2014, with the rate being 22 times higher than in non-Aboriginal people.

“The proportion of newly diagnosed HIV infections in Australia attributed to injecting drug use was also much higher in Aboriginal people than non-Aboriginal people – 16 per cent compared to 3 per cent, respectively.

“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.”

Dr Armstrong said a range of new treatments made it possible for people with BBVs to continue to live long and healthy lives.

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.

The campaign was developed in consultation with Aboriginal health workers and leaders from regional and metropolitan areas to ensure it resonated with Aboriginal people.

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

ENDS

Media contact: (08) 9222 4333

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