NHS Tayside is encouraging people to get tested for hepatitis C and take advantage of improved treatments as part of World Hepatitis Day (28 July).
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a chronic, infectious and potentially fatal disease which can cause serious liver damage and liver cancer. Those most at risk include people who are currently or have a history of injecting drugs (even if it was only once or twice), including steroids or other performance enhancing or body image drugs.
In addition, individuals who have had tattoos or medical or dental procedures carried out abroad at facilities that may not have used sterile equipment should consider getting tested.
NHS Tayside Sexual Health & Blood Borne Virus Managed Care Network Manager Donna Thain said, “We want to get across the message that hepatitis C, when diagnosed, can be cured. The testing is quick and easy and is widely available across Tayside, in most cases using a finger-prick test.
“We are world leading in our approach to identifying, diagnosing and engaging individuals in HCV treatment. Tayside has been successful in diagnosing over 90% of the estimated chronic population and curing a high proportion of people with hepatitis C.
“However, there remains a significant undiagnosed population, which poses a risk to individuals’ own health as well as an ongoing transmission risk to others. Many people will have been infected 10 to 20 years ago and be unaware of their diagnosis.
“Fear of stigma and lack of information often holds people back from getting tested or seen by specialist staff. We want to make sure that people know that there is a wide range of friendly, accessible services across Tayside that can offer testing and access to very effective treatments.
“Hepatitis C is completely curable and treatment for most people will be with eight to 12 weeks of tablets. Over 90% of people can be cured easily.”
NHS Tayside is working with Hepatitis Scotland and five other NHS Boards to support the Scottish Government’s hepatitis C elimination pledge. The social media campaign #BeHepCFree was launched on World Hepatitis Day to highlight how to get tested, treated and cured of hepatitis C.
Scotland has an opportunity to improve the health of its communities and the Scottish Government has now committed to the World Health Organisation target of the elimination of hepatitis C as a public health concern by 2030.
34,500 people in Scotland currently live with hepatitis C. Many of these individuals face health inequalities or greater morbidity linked to issues such as mental health, drug and alcohol use. These health inequalities not only have a damaging impact on individuals’ health and wellbeing, but also act as a barrier to accessing testing and support.
A focus on testing, accessible treatment and prevention will ensure the elimination of hepatitis C as a public health concern in Scotland in the years to come, improving the health of those affected by the illness and those at risk.
For more information on hepatitis C visit www.hepcscot.org
For information on local services visit www.sexualhealthtayside.org