Major breakthrough: Hepatitis C treatment secured for onshore detainees

Asylum seekers with Hepatitis C in onshore detention will now have access to curative medication following advocacy by PIAC’s Asylum Seeker Health Rights Project.

Under new Commonwealth Government policies, all people in onshore immigration detention will now have access to Hepatitis C medication.

‘For years, asylum seekers in immigration detention were routinely denied access to life saving Hepatitis C medication that was readily available in the community. This policy change is excellent news for detainees with Hepatitis C who often spend many years in immigration detention untreated,’ said Senior Solicitor Mary Flanagan.

The major breakthrough follows successful litigation for individual PIAC clients denied treatment, a complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman on behalf of people denied medication and consistent policy advocacy, including the release of our 2018 report In Poor Health: Health care in Australian immigration detention.

This change benefits not just those people in immigration detention who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C (with 147 new cases diagnosed in 2017-18 alone), but also staff and other detainees who face less risk of onward transmission of the disease. It also helps Australia meet its commitment to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2030.

Since 2017, PIAC’s Asylum Seeker Health Rights Project has been calling for urgent legislation and practical measures to ensure that asylum seekers receive the same standard of health care as the general community.

‘The government owes a clear, common law duty of care to the people it detains,’ said Mary Flanagan.

‘However, the legislation that governs the treatment of people in detention does not include a guaranteed right to reasonable medical care and treatment.

‘We continue to seek changes to laws, policies and practices so that all people in immigration detention have access to essential healthcare to a standard equivalent to that in the Australian community,’ said Mary Flanagan.

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