Since the emergence of Hepatitis C in Australia in the late 1980s/ early 1990s, the affected community, primarily being people who use and inject drugs (or peers) have been central to the public health response.
In the 1980s the first needle syringe programs were illegally established by peers and considered an act of civil disobedience- this is when there was inadequate public policy to respond to the blood-borne virus epidemic in the Australian community.
Whilst we have seen advances in healthcare since that time, and significant investment in treatment, the community of people who use and inject drugs have been integral in getting their peers engaged.
As long as drug use remains criminalised, stigma (and by extension the marginalisation of people who use drugs) will remain a barrier to the uptake of healthcare. This is why engaging the community of people who use drugs will remain pivotal as we work towards the elimination of Hepatitis C by 2030.
Equally as important today, is considering that prisons are fast becoming the primary site with which Hepatitis C is being transmitted and acquired. We run a great risk of not achieving elimination until an adequate public health response is enacted to respond to this, and for clarity, yes, I mean making sterile injecting equipment available to people incarcerated who need it.
AIVL and the important network of community-led organisations working in response to Blood Borne Viruses and sexually transmissible infections have, for decades utilised their limited resources to work in close partnership with each other. Not only have they been the voice of the community at a national level but have also been drivers for getting the community to both engage in healthcare and promote the uptake of harm reduction practices. We remain closely knit in our joint commitment to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2030.
AIVL is the national organisation representing people who use/have used illicit drugs and is the peak body for the state and territory peer-based drug user organisations.
Jake Docker, CEO, AIVL – email firstname.lastname@example.org