The Health News – 3 December 2015

Overview:
•  A major breakthrough has occurred in the treatment of Hepatitis C, but until these new drugs are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Australians will continue to suffer unnecessarily.

• HIV cases in Aboriginal people have not increased in New South Sales this year, according to an expert from Hunter New England Health.

• Half new-aged hippy and half middle-aged mother, Ms Joy is part of a group of people in Australia, the United States and beyond that sell hugs, caresses, spooning and other forms of intimacy to complete strangers. Scientists have for many years studied the power of touch.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 3rd December 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-02/bresnan-the-government-must-fund-this-hep-c-cure/6993788

A major breakthrough has occurred in the treatment of Hepatitis C, but until these new drugs are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Australians will continue to suffer unnecessarily, writes Amanda Bresnan.

The aim of medical research is to find cures for diseases and conditions that cause death or prevent the living of productive and healthy lives.

So when a cure for a condition that kills thousands of Australians and leaves many more in chronic ill-health is found, you’d expect the government to rush this treatment out.

Yet the hundreds of thousands of Australians living with Hepatitis C are not able to access revolutionary treatments that are available overseas. And doctors in Australia cannot currently prescribe a treatment for a chronic condition that can lead to liver cancer and premature death.

Recently, a major breakthrough occurred in the treatment of Hepatitis C – a breakthrough not just for treating this virus, but one of the few viral treatments ever developed. The importance of this medical discovery cannot be overstated.

Several pharmaceutical companies have developed new anti-viral medications that can cure more than 95 per cent of people living with hepatitis C. This is not a vaccine; it is, in almost all cases, a cure. However, the drugs are costly – at more [than] $100,000 for each person who takes the oral treatment.

There’s been a major campaign undertaken by people living with Hepatitis C, the medical community, and the organisations who represent and advocate on behalf of people living with hepatitis C, to have these new drugs listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

These Hepatitis C treatments have already been approved by the PBAC and the reason for the delay in providing them to patients is the ongoing negotiations with the product sponsors over price.

The federal Health Minister, Sussan Ley, previously made some positive statements which suggested the possibility of treatments being listed by December 2015; however, this listing is looking less and less likely to occur.

In the meantime, while many people with Hepatitis C are waiting for the treatments to become available, they are holding off on trying other, less successful treatments in the hope that the new anti-virals are listed.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-02/expert-warns-of-need-for-hiv-awareness-in-aboriginal-communitie/6994320

HIV cases in Aboriginal people have not increased in New South Sales this year, according to an expert from Hunter New England Health.

Clinical Director of Sexual Health, Dr Nathan Ryder, said according to New South Wales Health figures collected for the first nine months of this year, the number of cases has remained stable.

He said it goes against national figures that indicate HIV rates among Indigenous people are one-and-a-half times higher than in non-Indigenous people.

Dr Ryder said while the rate of Indigenous people contracting HIV is not on the rise, the prevention, detection and treatment of the disease is still vital.

He said several things need to be done to help prevent the spread of HIV.

“What I’d like to see is the continued focus on making sure Aboriginal people have good access to HIV testing and good access to the means of preventing HIV being acquired in the first place,” Dr Ryder said.

“So we need people to have access to condoms, clean needles and good … education …”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-02/cuddle-therapy-embracing-a-trend-to-offer-intimacy-to-strangers/6986872

Standing in a semi-circle of onlookers, Shirley-Anne Joy embraces a young man for several minutes before releasing him back to his chair.

The professional cuddler then turned to another Darwin workshop participant with a softened smile and outstretched arms.

“Would you like a hug?” Ms Joy said.

Half new-aged hippy and half middle-aged mother, Ms Joy is part of a group of people in Australia, the United States and beyond that sell hugs, caresses, spooning and other forms of intimacy to complete strangers.

The so-called global service trend — sometimes dubbed cuddle therapy or the platonic touch movement — can involve group workshops through to one-on-one overnight pyjama sleepovers, costing hundreds of dollars.

The Newcastle-based former nurse and midwife calls herself “The Love Warrior” and offers both one-on-one sessions and workshops.

“The self-hug is something I’ve developed myself,” she said.

Scientists have for many years studied the power of touch, with massage through to sex known to slow heart rates, ease blood pressure, reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase the release of the happy hormone serotonin.