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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13309

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (13:17): If I could commence my contribution to this debate by saying hepatitis C is a disease, an illness, that should not be politicised in the way that it was by the previous speaker. People on both sides of this parliament are committed to ensuring the best and timely treatment for people with hepatitis C. In a previous life I actually worked with people who suffered from hepatitis C. One case is particularly memorable for me—a young guy who died at the age of 17. He was having the standard treatment, that is still available. As the previous speaker mentioned, there are new treatments, treatments that should be embraced and will be embraced by the government, I am quite sure.

But the previous speaker took the opportunity to just play politics around such an important issue. I think he stands condemned for that, because it is not in the interests of the people who have hep-C to just make political statements and lower this debate to that base political level; rather, we should all be working to try and have the new-generation drugs listed. I know that on this side of the parliament we are committed to working to get cures and treatments that are going to help people with hepatitis C. I look at this from the perspective that with hepatitis C, what we need to do is look at education within the community, prevention, research and cure. It is all those things that go together to develop the right kind of outcome for people who are suffering from hepatitis C and those that are potential suffers from hepatitis C. It is through taking a strategy such as that that we can actually deliver real hope for the future to people in our community.

There is a recommendation going to cabinet very shortly. I know that the minister will look at it very seriously. I know that there has been a lot of work done that indicates just how important it is that a number of these drugs are listed. I know that there are many of us on this side of the House that will be working to see that people can get the best possible treatment that is needed. I think it is very important that we are debating this motion today in the parliament, because it is also about raising awareness of hepatitis C. The young guy that I talked about that lost his life at 17 years of age and whose real achievement in life, the thing that gave him the most happiness, was actually to pass the test and obtain his driver's licence, obtained his hepatitis C from a blood transfusion. It is very pleasing to note that since 1990, blood is being screened; prior to 1990, it was not. That is all part of the research and putting in place the right protocols to address this disease.

As time goes along, the strategies, the treatment, the prevention and the research change. We need to embrace change. We need to look at it from the perspective of those people that already have hepatitis C and those people that could potentially end up with hepatitis C at some time in their life. That is why the needle exchange program is so important. That is why I would like to encourage all members of this parliament to get behind and support the needle exchange program, as well as new treatments. I have not gone into the statistics and the number of people that suffer from hepatitis C, but needless to say it is 1.4 per cent of our population, and 1.4 per cent of our population deserve to have some hope for the future. Those that do not have hepatitis C need to be certain that they will not end up with hepatitis C. If they do, they need to know that there is a treatment that can help them.