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UK Hepatitis C Inquiry

This news item has been re-published from the Haemophilia Foundation Australia website. View the original version here:

Hepatitis C is in the news once again. The UK government Infected Blood Inquiry investigating contaminated blood and blood products was commenced in 2017 and the report was released on 20 May 2024. In the UK, there have been several schemes that provide financial support to people who acquired blood borne viruses through the UK blood supply.

In Australia the initial situation with collecting blood donations and testing the blood supply was different to the UK.  Australia was one of the first countries in the world to introduce hep C testing of the blood supply and had a policy of self-sufficiency in the blood supply (ie sourcing donations from Australia only).  There was an Australian Senate Inquiry into Hepatitis C and the Blood Supply in 2004, which investigated and reported on the Australian situation, and an Australian government Inquiry into Hepatitis C in Australia in 2015.

In 2006-9 HFA undertook a hepatitis C needs assessment and described the burden of hepatitis C on our community members in our Double Whammy (2007) and Getting it Right (2009) reports. The HFA 2020 Getting Older needs assessment found that, although the greater majority of surviving people with bleeding disorders who had acquired hepatitis C have now been cured, there are ongoing health, financial and support issues for many.

You can see what HFA has done in relation to hepatitis C over the years on the HFA hepatitis C strategy page on our website. This includes seeking government support for an ex gratia recompense scheme and ensuring that people with bleeding disorders in Australia have access to new highly effective hepatitis C treatments and are aware of the potential to be cured.

Although the 2004 Senate Inquiry into Hepatitis C and the Blood Supply recommended case management and financial support for health and community care costs of those who acquired hepatitis C through the blood supply, a formal program was never implemented. Australian governments contributed to Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) litigation settlement schemes for eligible people who contracted HCV via the blood supply in Australia between 1985 and 1991, prior to the introduction of reliable screening tests for hepatitis C virus. However, eligibility for the scheme involved being able to link the individual’s source of infection to a single donor with hepatitis C. HFA believes that nearly all people with bleeding disorders were excluded from eligibility as they had many treatments during this period and usually with clotting factor concentrates manufactured from the pooled plasma from thousands of donations and they could not identify a particular treatment batch or a single donor. Apart from a small ex-gratia payment that was made by the ACT government to people with bleeding disorders who acquired hepatitis C through the blood supply, there have been no other government financial recompense schemes for people with bleeding disorders in Australia. The HFA Getting Older report highlighted that hepatitis C leaves an ongoing legacy for many in our community. We continue to work on a strategy to implement the report recommendations and will advise of any further steps and outcomes.

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