Ms TIERNEY (Minister for Corrections) (12:44:58) — I rise to update the house on an important Andrews Labor government program to reduce the spread of bloodborne viruses such as hepatitis B and C both in the community and in the corrections system. Rates of hepatitis C are much higher amongst prisoners than in the general population, with a quarter of prisoners estimated to be living with hepatitis C in Victoria. Approximately 1 per cent of the general population are infected by hepatitis C. Given the high-risk nature of the prison population, the provision of treatment to prisoners has a significant benefit to the community and to preventing the spread of this disease.
In 2015 the Andrews Labor government provided funding for a statewide hepatitis treatment program throughout the Victorian prison system for prisoners with chronic hepatitis B and C. This program is a comprehensive nurse-led model of care developed by St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, and is available to all prisoners who are found to have chronic hepatitis. Prisoners in the program receive a detailed liver health care plan which is used whilst they are in custody as well as on their return to the community. I wish to inform the house that the statewide hepatitis program has exceeded the target of 693 prisoners treated by September 2017. As of 30 September 2017, 953 prisoners had commenced the hepatitis C treatment, and of those, 364 prisoners are already considered cured. A cure is defined by a specific blood test being negative at 12 weeks post treatment completion.
I am also pleased to inform the house that the Andrews Labor government has extended this important program for another two years. I look forward to seeing further excellent results from a program that not only keeps our community safer but also contributes to the government’s goal of eliminating hepatitis C as a public health concern.