The Governor-General today encouraged New Zealanders to support The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand in its long-term goal of eradicating chronic hepatitis B and C in New Zealand.
“As Patron, I’m proud to be associated with a not-for-profit organisation like The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand because it epitomises core New Zealand values: a commitment to public good and the care and support of New Zealanders,” said Lt Gen The Rt HonSir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand.
Sir Jerry Mateparae spoke of the Foundation’s achievements and its exciting future ahead, as he celebrated the 30th anniversary of The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand at his residence, Government House.
Thirty years ago, hepatitis B was rife amongst New Zealand’s children. Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Sandy Milne, MBE, founder of The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand, thousands of children were spared from contracting this disease, which was easily contracted in playgrounds. The Foundation’s work in the field of hepatitis B led to the roll-out of the free hepatitis B vaccine across New Zealand, the first sovereign nation to introduce universal hepatitis B vaccination for all children. Today, the Foundation has over 17,500 people with chronic hepatitis B or C enrolled in their free national programmes, with an aim to increase to 35,000 in the next five years.
“The hepatitis B immunisation programme protects children from contracting hepatitis B. Nowadays, we rarely see any New Zealander under the age of 25 infected with hepatitis B and we’ve got Sandy Milne to thank for that,” said John Hornell, CEO of The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand.
“It’s also a very exciting time in the field of hepatitis C. A new generation of drugs have been developed that are highly tolerable and effective at curing hepatitis C. The eradication of hepatitis C in New Zealand is now an achievable goal.”
One hundred and sixty people attended the event at Government House, hosted by Their Excellencies. Attendees included Mayor Celia Wade-Brown of Wellington, Mayor Tony Bonne of Whakatane, medical specialists, general practitioners and people living with chronic hepatitis B or C.
About 150,000 New Zealanders live with chronic hepatitis B or C and many don’t realise they have it. Chronic hepatitis are the leading causes of liver transplantation and liver cancer in New Zealand. The Foundation encourages anyone at risk of hepatitis to contact the Foundation for a free test on 0800 33 20 10 or via www.hepatitisfoundation.org.nz
People at risk of hepatitis B are those who are over 25 and of Māori, Pacific Island, or Asian ethnicity. Also at risk are people whose mother or close family has hepatitis B, or if they live with someone who has hepatitis B.
For hepatitis C, those at risk are people who have ever injected drugs, ever received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment, had medical attention overseas or immigrated from a high risk country, had a blood transfusion prior to 1992, have ever been in prison, or were born to a mother with hepatitis C.
The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand is a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to improve health outcomes for people living with chronic hepatitis B or C in New Zealand.
For more information, contact: