It's said that one-third of the estimated 170,000 people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia are currently undiagnosed, with the country's first National Hepatitis B Testing Policy aiming to address this major public health issue.
The Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) Clinical Director – Viral Hepatitis, Professor Bob Batey said that one in four people with chronic hepatitis B will die from liver failure or liver cancer if they are not given the "appropriate monitoring or treatment".
"We can see from recent international research that appropriate treatment for chronic hepatitis B can reduce the risk of liver cancer by over 50 per cent in just a few years," Professor Batey said.
"The clear testing pathway, illustrating the diagnostic decision making process and interpretation of results is a key feature of the new testing policy and will help health professionals to accurately diagnose patients and therefore improve health outcomes," he said.
Professor Batey said that it was important to note that Medicare rebates apply for hepatitis B serological testing, which includes "hepatitis B surface antigen, surface antibody and core antibody tests, as well as HBV DNA".
"These are available for opportunistic chronic hepatitis B testing in symptomless patients, if it is considered ‘reasonably necessary’ according to patient’s individual circumstances – such as being from a priority population," he added.
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