A government debate on the elimination of Hepatitis C will take place in Parliament today.
The debate will discuss the UK’s progress towards global targets set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to eliminate hepatitis C as a major public health threat by 2030.
NHS England is on track meet the target by 2025; five years earlier than planned. This is due to significant improvements in the numbers of patients receiving new oral treatments for hepatitis C, which has reduced the number of deaths by 10% and halved the number of patients needing a liver transplant.
Hepatitis C – the facts
- Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus (BBV) which is thought to affect up to 215,000 people in the UK – many of whom are unaware that they are infected.
- The virus is spread through contact with infected blood, including through the sharing of needles, razors, or unsterilised piercing equipment. Hepatitis C can also be spread through unprotected sex.
- In the early stages, hepatitis C commonly has no symptoms. However, if untreated, hepatitis C can cause serious damage to the liver and lead to liver cirrhosis and even liver cancer.
- The virus disproportionately affects vulnerable groups with limited access to healthcare, including patients affected by substance misuse. Roughly 50% of patients who inject drugs in the UK are thought to have hepatitis C, and half of patients hospitalised by the virus are from the poorest fifth of society.
Could you be at risk?
The most significant risk factor for hepatitis C is sharing or injecting intravenous drugs. As well as posing a significant danger to your health, this also exposes others to the risks of hepatitis C. Find out more about other risk factors for hepatitis C.
If you’re worried – get tested
If you struggle with substance misuse and are worried that you may be at risk of hepatitis C, come to one of Spectrum’s community clinics and get tested. Testing is fast, confidential and free. Most cases of hepatitis C are treated with a simple course of antiviral medicine.
Our clinical services can also help if you are struggling with drugs or alcohol and need long-term support to help you get back on track – get in touch today.