08 May 2024

Potentially thousands of people in South Western Sydney are living with a disease which is curable – and yet they are unaware of the treatment.

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a virus which is usually transmitted when blood from an infected person enters the bloodstream of another, either from sharing needles or through sexual activity.

Symptoms can include aches, pain and fever; fatigue; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; abdominal pain; jaundice (yellow skin and eyes); mood swings, anxiety and depression.

However, most people with hep C don’t experience any symptoms until their liver is irreparably damaged, which can take years.

You are at greater risk of contracting hep C if you received blood or blood products before screening improved in 1993, spent a long time on dialysis or have been infected with HIV.

There is no vaccine to prevent hep C. However, treatment for hep C is now 95 per cent successful.

How common is hep C in South Western Sydney?

In 2020, 0.83 per cent of people in South Western Sydney had hep C, with Campbelltown and Fairfield having the highest rates of disease at 1.18 per cent and 1.01 per cent respectively.

Of that 0.83 per cent – or an estimated 7,669 people – just 42.1 per cent were receiving treatment. 

How does the Motivate C study work?

In a bid to support an Australia-wide initiative to eliminate hep C by 2030, SWSPHN is promoting Motivate C, a Sydney University project which aims to find out if a cash reward will encourage those affected to seek treatment from community providers such as their GP.

The study – known as the Methodical evaluation and Optimisation of Targeted IncentiVes for Accessing Treatment of Early-stage hepatitis C (Motivate C) – is offering payments of up to $1,000 (amount decided by computer algorithm) to participants who commence hep C treatment.

It doesn’t matter if they are newly diagnosed or have had hep C for years.

The only thing which would prevent them taking part in the study would be if they had already started treatment.

Why is treatment important?

Treatment of hep C is important because it helps stop liver damage and might prevent liver cancer.

Current medicines to treat hep C are safe, effective, easy to take with as little as one tablet a day, and available at low cost for people who have a Medicare card because they are subsidised by the Australian government.

Current medicines are very different from older treatments which often resulted in side effects.

What are the benefits of taking part in the study?

As well as the financial incentive, participants receive the help of a “navigator” to connect them to testing and treatment.

Also, the obvious benefit is they will be cured of their hep C infection.

It’s hoped the project will allow even more people to get tested, treated and cured of hep C.

Find out more about Motivate C