Press release from the AIVL:
“People Who Use Drugs Welcome Decision to ‘Seize the Day’ on New Hepatitis C Treatments”
The Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) celebrates today’s momentous decision by the Australian Government to fund highly effective new hepatitis C treatment medications through their listing on the PBS. In making this decision the Australian Government has taken advantage of an opportunity rarely offered to governments, that is, to end a major public health epidemic by making these highly effective treatments affordable and accessible to the many thousands of Australians living with hepatitis C.
The recently released report from the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into Hepatitis C in Australia declared in its introductory sentence that: “Hepatitis C, an infectious disease is the most prevalent blood-borne virus in Australia affecting an estimated 230,000 people.” The vast majority of people living with hepatitis C in Australia are people who inject/have injected illicit drugs.
“Today we stand together with all Australians living with hepatitis C who have been waiting so long to welcome this news. Many people have been delaying treatment in the hope of an announcement like this that will allow people to be treated regardless of genotype and in a way that is affordable for the individual. The investment of $1 billion dollars by the Australian Government to subsidise life-saving treatments has the potential to transform the hepatitis C treatment landscape in Australia” says Annie Madden, AIVL Executive Officer.
For people living with hepatitis C, Australia is in the midst of a public crisis including a dramatic increase in serious liver disease and deaths (from liver cancer and liver failure) associated with chronic hepatitis C infection. The number of people with at least moderate liver disease has more than doubled in the last 10 years and current hepatitis C mortality rates are estimated at almost 700 deaths per annum. Diagnosis and treatment costs associated with advanced liver disease and cancer are currently almost $80 million annually and chronic hepatitis C is now the leading indication for liver transplantation in Australia.
With extremely low levels of treatment access and uptake and a growing cohort of people with chronic hepatitis C who have been infected for 20 years or more, serious illness, liver transplantation and deaths associated with hepatitis C were set to rise significantly over the coming decade. This $1 billion dollar investment in hepatitis C treatment by the Australian Government is what was required to address this situation.
“The new generation of hepatitis C treatments with significantly shorter treatment duration, increased tolerability, reduced medications and increased efficacy will significantly improve treatment for people with chronic hepatitis C infection. For the first time ever, we have targets agreed by all federal and state/territory health ministers for both hepatitis C prevention and treatment in the National Hepatitis C Strategy 2014-2017. Providing people living with hepatitis C with affordable access to these life-saving, new generation treatments give us a real chance at meeting the targets in the National Strategy” declared Ms Madden.
The new generation hepatitis C treatments clear the virus in over 80-90% of people, can PREVENT CANCER and reduce mortality. We just need to ensure these ground-breaking new treatments are delivered in an appropriate way for those most affected and that we address the significant barriers to hepatitis C treatment associated with stigma, discrimination and the ongoing criminalisation of people who use illicit drugs. Currently less than 2% of people accessing NSP have ever had hepatitis C treatment.
“In addition to providing access hepatitis C treatment in tertiary care settings in hospitals, we need to be providing access to treatment in settings that present less barriers for people who inject drugs (PWID) such as community clinics connected with NSPs and primary health care settings that incorporate PWID peer support workers. Making the most of the new generation treatments will require genuine mobilisation and engagement with the main affected community and this means that peer–based drug user organisations must be central in creating those partnerships and pathways to care for people who inject drugs” concluded Ms Madden.
THERAPEUTIC COMMUNITIES CALL FOR MORE ICE BEDS AS PART OF A COORDINATED APPROACH
The Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association (ATCA) has welcomed a recent statement by Senator the Hon Fiona Nash, Assistant Minister for Health, which noted results of the historic 2014 Victorian tri-partisan inquiry into the supply and use of methamphetamine, which includes the crystalised form of the drug, known more popularly as Ice.
As Senator Nash notes, “A recent review of 30 publications reporting on 16 studies found positive outcomes for therapeutic communities …including reduced substance use, and criminal involvement, increased rates of employment…residential rehabilitation is indeed an important part of a suite of evidence based treatments available.”
Therapeutic Communities (TCs) in Australia, in line with their counterparts internationally, have been successfully treating meth/amphetamine dependence for many years, and in the past 12 months have increasingly responded to the call for help from those who have become dependent on Ice.
Associate Professor Lynne Magor-Blatch, Executive Officer of the ATCA, said today, “Therapeutic Communities have been working effectively with complex clients and changing drug use presentations since they were first established in Australia more than 40 years ago. Methamphetamine, and the use of Ice in particular, has resulted in a range of acute harms that have not been seen with other drug presentations.”
There are no pharmacological alternatives to treatment in the same way there is for opiate addiction.
The ATCA represents therapeutic communities working across Australia and New Zealand, and all have reported significant increases in numbers of people seeking help.
“All our members have had the opportunity to talk with members of the Ice Taskforce during the period of consultation, and have provided valuable information on the range of complex behaviours and psychological issues that they are dealing with on a daily basis. People seeking residential treatment are not recreational users, they have complex mental health and behavioural issues and are generally those who have come into contact with the law or are involved in considerable personal and family disruption”.
While the association believes strongly in the need to provide a range of services across the treatment spectrum, the reported recommendation to support day treatment and outclient services at the expense of residential TC programs has raised concerns.
“It needs to be acknowledged that clients presenting for treatment for Ice addiction are generally polysubstance users who have been involved in substance misuse and abuse over a number of years.
They are also experiencing a range of health, interpersonal, social and mental health issues which have brought them to this point – and a “quick fix” will not solve this issue long term”, Dr Magor-Blatch added.
The association stresses that the treatment or recovery journey is often a long one, and that people will typically have a number of attempts at a variety of treatment-types before succeeding. Substance use has similar relapse rates to other chronic conditions.
“Unfortunately we too often credit the last treatment attempt with being the successful one, without understanding that it is the culmination of treatments that have produced the successful outcome. Social and psychological factors also play a huge role in this – as people mature and other aspects of their lives become more important, drugs may lose their appeal. Perhaps it appears that the short-term two to four session intervention at the end has been the successful intervention – but it is likely that it has worked because of many previous attempts, including residential treatment.”
The Victorian Government has recently announced the investment of $18 million to expand drug treatment and rehabilitation services, but the majority of the funds are being poured into day programs, which are unlikely to assist those with the greatest need. Meantime, Odyssey House in Victoria, one of the largest TCs in Australia, reports being inundated by the number of people who are desperately seeking help.
Odyssey House is one of the ATCA’s 43 members, and provides two therapeutic communities. They can accommodate 100 people across their facilities. Members of the ATCA provide 53 TC programs in Australia, working with adults, young people and families. Six of the TCs accept parents with children, three are in custodial settings and three are youth-specific (from 14 years of age). ATCA members provide residential services for more than 9,000 people annually, as well as over 20,000 people in outpatient support programs. Recent research showed 63% of clients in treatment had a primary substance dependency on Ice, although this number increases to more than 80% for youth-specific programs.
“The picture provided by Odyssey House in Victoria is mirrored across Australia. Our larger agencies such as Odyssey in New South Wales, the WHOS programs in New South Wales and Queensland, the Salvation Army Recovery Centres across the east coast, Cyrenian House in Perth, along with all our smaller agencies are experiencing a huge increase in demand, and without funding to increase bed numbers, people will be unable to get the help they need. This pushes people in two directions – either to look for help in the private sector or overseas, or to continue to use the drugs that are destroying their lives and the communities around them.”
Often those who are unable to secure a place in government or non-government residential service and do not have private health insurance, are forced to self-fund their own treatment. More often than not this places a huge burden on working families to come up with considerable funds – sometimes $20,000 – $30,000 to secure a safe treatment place for their loved one. More must be done to assist not only the users but to relieve the financial burden on families poorly equipped to cope with this financial burden.
The ATCA is concerned that the Ice Taskforce will also step back from a commitment to residential services and emphasizes the need to provide funds to help those most in need. This does not negate the need for education and early intervention and short-term interventions, but more fully supports a comprehensive approach to the drug problem.
“There has been a huge emphasis on the violence and aggressive behaviours which we often see associated with this drug. Our member services in New Zealand have been working with methamphetamine users for a long time, and the coordinated approach we have seen there between health and justice is one from which we can learn”.
A key message here, is the need to build infrastructure, increase bed numbers in residential services as well as other community-based responses, so that they can take referrals from and work together with the justice system to provide a managed and synchronized response.
Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform (FFDLR) will be holding the 20th Annual Remembrance Ceremony ‘for those who lose their life to illicit drugs’ on Monday 26 October 2015.
- Kate Carnell AO, CEO Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (as Chief Minister of the ACT in 1996 Ms Carnell unveiled the plaque at the first ceremony)
- Rev Graham Long AM, Pastor, The Wayside Chapel
- Tony Trimingham OAM, CEO Family Drug Support
Time: 12:30 – 1:30pm
Venue: Weston Park, Yarralumla
For more information: See the flyer at http://www.atoda.org.au/wp-content/uploads/FFDLR-Remembrance-CEremony-Flyer-2015-1.doc, or email email@example.com
[Via the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education]:
Today is International FASD Awareness Day. Please consider showing your support for this day. One way would be to simply share this email. Other was are outlined below.
What is International FASD Awareness Day?
International FASD Awareness Day is observed every year on 9 September, with bells rung at 9:09am in time zones from Australia to Alaska in recognition of the nine months of a pregnancy. The day aims to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and the outcomes for individuals and families who are living with FASD.
This year the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) is joining Australian, and international, efforts by asking people to raise awareness on social media and commit to being alcohol free for the day. We’re also asking you to support health professionals who are pledging to speak to all women about alcohol to prevent FASD.
How to show your support
The Australian FASD network are asking you to show your support by pledging not to consume alcoholic beverages on Wednesday 9 September.
You can download and share one of the attached images – or print them out and take a photograph of yourself with this message – then share your post on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever platform you choose) along with the hashtags #FASD and #FASDAwarenessDay.
For example: “#Alcohol free to prevent #FASD. I’m supporting international #FASDAwarenessDay”.
As the national peak organisation representing the interests of individuals and families living with FASD, NOFASD Australia will be very active on International FASD Awareness Day. Vicki Russell, Chief Executive Officer will be at the first Strategy meeting of the Community Drug Action team in Narrabri and Adelle Rist, National Educator will be in Narrandera with the team there.
NOFASD’s Ambassador, Emeritus Professor John Boulton describes FASD as the condition “hidden in plain sight”. Let’s make sure FASD is in clear sight.
Help NOFASD support individuals, parents and families living with FASD by raising public awareness in Australia. You can support NOFASD Australia’s work by donating, following@NoFASDAustralia on Twitter, liking NOFASD Australia on Facebook or by joining their network of supporters and encourage others to do the same.
If you’re a health professional
You can promote FARE’s Women Want to Know campaign which encourages health professionals to speak to women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy about alcohol consumption.
A range of information and resources for health professionals are available at www.alcohol.gov.au or you can undertake online training through Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians, Royal College of General Practitioners and Australian College of Midwives.
You can also go international and take The Arc of the United States’ pledge today to talk to women about alcohol consumption: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/151/523/891/100-preventable-take-the-pledge-to-end-fetal-alcohol-spectrum-disorders
Not on social media?
You can still take part by speaking to your friends, family and network about this important issue, and including information about International FASD Awareness Day in emails and newsletters that you’re sending out that day or week.
What is FASD?
FASD is an umbrella term for a range of disabilities resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure. FASD is the most common preventable cause of non-genetic, developmental disability in Australia. Children born with FASD have a range of learning, behavioural and developmental disabilities that affect them for the rest of their lives. To learn more about FASD and FARE’s policy position visit http://www.fare.org.au/policy/fasd/.
Media Release from Uni of Adelaide:
The world’s first comprehensive report on global addictions has revealed Australians smoke less tobacco and drink less alcohol than the British, but Aussies take more illicit drugs.
The Global Statistics on Addictive Behaviours: 2014 Status Report, led by researchers at the University of Adelaide, is the first time that global data on the prevalence of alcohol and other drug use, and gambling, has been presented in a single compilation. A paper on the report was published today in the journal Addiction.
The paper’s lead author Associate Professor Linda Gowing, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Medical Sciences, says alcohol and tobacco use are by far the most prevalent addictive behaviours worldwide and cause the most harm.
“Approximately 84% of Australians drink alcohol at least once in a 12-month period, compared to 83.9% in the United Kingdom and 68.9% in the United States; however, 3.7% of Australians are considered to have an alcohol use disorder, compared to 12.1% in the UK and 7.8% in the US,” says Associate Professor Gowing.
“Australians are also slightly lighter smokers compared to the British, but smoking is still relatively common – 20% of Australians smoke tobacco at least once in a 12-month period, in comparison to 22% of the British.
“The report found alcohol and tobacco are the most common addictions in most countries and they are also the most harmful. 11% of deaths in males and 6% of deaths in females are linked to tobacco each year globally. Alcoholism is associated with a range of health issues and takes years off someone’s life,” she says.
Associate Professor Gowing says the data revealed the impact of illicit drugs is significant in Australia.
“10.3% of Australians smoke cannabis at least once in a 12-month period, compared to 5-7% in the UK ; 3% use ecstasy, compared to 1.1-1.7% of people in the UK; and 2.1% of Australians use amphetamine-type drugs at least once in a 12-month period, compared to 0.7-1.2% in the UK,” says Associate Professor Gowing.
Associate Professor Gowing says it is important that this data is used to further reduce the impact of alcohol abuse and tobacco smoking.
“This data is highly valuable and can be used to guide policy-makers and researchers in planning responses to addictions world-wide,” says Associate Professor Gowing.
“It’s encouraging that less Australians use tobacco and abuse alcohol than other developed countries like the US and the UK; however it’s important that we continue to work towards reducing the impact of alcohol and tobacco on the Australian community,” she says.
FARE launched its 2015 Annual Alcohol Poll: Attitudes and behaviours this morning at the Victorian Parliament.
The 2015 Poll was carried out by Galaxy Research for the sixth consecutive year and provides valuable trend data and insights into community perspectives on alcohol.
Did you know that 92 per cent of Australians think that they drink responsibly? This is pretty concerning when you consider that 32 per cent of Australians drink to get drunk and in light of campaigns that call for people to drink ‘responsibly’.
A copy of the report can be found at http://www.fare.org.au/alcpoll2015/ Have a look and see what else you can find.
MEDIA RELEASE: Public Health Association of Australia
Condolences for loss of public health leaders
Professor Heather Yeatman, President of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), has expressed deep sorrow at the huge loss to the public health community – and specifically to the international AIDS community – resulting from the tragedy of Malaysian Air Flight MH17.
Scientists, researchers, medical practitioners and activists en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne – as well as many other travellers – have perished aboard the crashed aircraft.
“The members of the PHAA are deeply saddened by the loss of up to a hundred people heading for the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne and nearly three hundred people altogether. We express our condolences to the families and friends of all who died in this horrific tragedy,” said Professor Yeatman.
“There is an irony in the fact that so many of these people have dedicated their lives in attempting to save others from the AIDS virus and have died in such awful circumstances.
“Confirmation of the loss of people like Joep Lange, a former President of the International AIDS Society, and WHO Media Advisor, Glenn Thomas, along with so many other people at the forefront of the fight against AIDS, will be devastating.
“The members of the PHAA and the public health community join with the international AIDS community in mourning for the loss,” concluded Professor Yeatman.
From the Penington Institute:
International Overdose Awareness Day August 31: Prevention and Remembrance.
We have to talk about overdose
International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31 is approaching. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 1427 Australians died of drug overdose in 2012 (most recent data available). Every one of these deaths is a family tragedy, every one preventable. Unfortunately the issue of drug overdose does get the public attention it so obviously warrants.
We are encouraging as many agencies and individuals to take part by organising events to help stimulate discussion. Needle and Syringe Programs, drug treatment programs and other related services are central to the growth and sustainability of International Overdose Awareness Day.
Events enable friends and family members to grieve openly and help spread awareness of the issue. If the community understands the cost of drug overdose the issue will be recognised as a priority area for our State, Territory and Federal Governments.
Each event organised around the day, no matter how modest in scale, raises awareness and can help save lives. Marking the day need not be complicated. For ideas on holding an event visit the International Overdose Awareness Day website at http://www.overdoseday.com/events/event-tips/.
Wearing the silver badge shows you support overdose prevention and remembrance. Badges can be ordered at www.overdoseday.com
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like any help in framing your support for International Overdose Awareness Day. Follow us on Twitter at @OverdoseDay or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/InternationalOverdoseAwarenessDay
MEDIA RELEASE: Social Determinants of Health Alliance
One year on from key health report and still no action in Australia
On 20 March 2013, the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs tabled its inquiry report into Australia’s domestic response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Commission on Social Determinants of Health report Closing the gap within a generation. A year on from the release of the inquiry report, no action has been taken to address the recommendations.
“The one-year anniversary of the Senate report coincides with National Close the Gap Day today. Last month, the Prime Minister, Opposition leader and Australian Greens leader reiterated their support for closing the unacceptable health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians by 2030. The evidence-based recommendations from the WHO’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health Report have reaped benefits around the world, but we have yet to see Australian governments commit to their implementation. If we are to Close the Gap, then implementing the WHO’s recommendations would be a great place to start,” explained Martin Laverty, Chair of the Social Determinants of Health Alliance (SDOHA).
The Coalition/Labor/Greens Senators made five recommendations that the Australian Government:
- Adopt the WHO Report and commit to addressing the social determinants of health relevant to the Australian context.
- Adopt administrative practices that ensure consideration of the social determinants of health in all relevant policy development activities, particularly in relation to education, employment, housing, family and social security policy.
- Place responsibility for addressing social determinants of health within one agency, with a mandate to address issues across portfolios.
- Give greater emphasis in National Health and Medical Research Council grant allocation priorities to research on public health and social determinants research.
- Make annual progress reports to Parliament a key requirement of the body tasked with responsibility for addressing the social determinants of health.
The recommendations of the tripartisan inquiry were endorsed by all of the participating Senators, including Senators Siewert, Moore, Boswell, Boyce, Brown, McKenzie, Smith, Thorp, Fierravanti-Wells and Di Natale.
The report clearly states that:
Good health involves improving access to education, reducing insecurity and unemployment, improving housing standards, and increasing the opportunities for social engagement available for all citizens. Addressing the discrepancies of health outcomes resulting from the prevailing social determinants means addressing the causes of those social determinants.
“It’s vital that the Commonwealth, state and territory governments work together if Australia is to address those factors that are holding us back in seeking to achieve better health outcomes for the Australian community,” said Mr Laverty.
SDOHA is a collaboration of like-minded organisations from the areas of health, social services and public policy established to work with governments to reduce health inequities in Australia. The Alliance currently has over 60 organisational members. More info on SDOHA, its activities and membership is available at: www.socialdeterminants.org.au