An international conference bringing together hepatitis C experts from around the world is today calling for strategies to prioritise people who use drugs, saying hepatitis C elimination is impossible without them.

"The number of people around the world dying from hepatitis C is increasing. We have the tools to reverse this trend, to eliminate this disease and save millions of lives. But it will not happen until people who use drugs become a focus of our efforts," said Associate Professor Jason Grebely, President of the International Network of Hepatitis C in Substance Users(INHSU), the convenors of the conference.

Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus that if left untreated can result in cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. Globally, there is an estimated 71.1 million people with chronic hepatitis C, resulting in over 700 000 deaths each year and the numbers are increasing. Eight per cent of those living with the disease and almost a quarter of new infections are in people who use drugs.

New, highly effective curative treatments have sparked hope of a world free of hepatitis C. Countries like Australia are currently on track to eliminate the disease as a public health concern by 2026 thanks to a public health strategy that offers treatment to all without restriction, and the prioritisation of people who use drugs. However in the US and many countries globally, hepatitis C testing, linkage to care, and treatment for people who use drugs remain low.

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