Press Release – World Hepatitis Day – July 28th 2016
Thursday 28th July is World Hepatitis Day: GOSHH has invited organisations including NOVAS, Ana Liffey Drugs Project and Limerick Drug and Alcohol Service to join together to promote information and awareness about Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a virus which affects the liver and can only be detected through a specific test which is available from any doctor or from the STI clinic in University Hospital Limerick. Hepatitis C is 30 more times more infectious than HIV and is contracted through blood to blood contact with an infected person.
It is estimated that 95% of people living with viral Hepatitis are unaware of their status. The importance of testing for Hepatitis C cannot be overstated. Dr Patrick O’Donnell GP & Clinical Fellow in Social Inclusion at the University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School stated “There were 678 new cases of Hepatitis C diagnosed in 2015 in Ireland. There are thought to be many more people with Hepatitis C who do not know that they have it. Blood testing for Hepatitis C is easily available at any GP surgery or STI clinic. Get tested – there’s no excuse!”
Although it often causes serious illness, one third of people will be able to clear the Hep C virus themselves, without any medical intervention. For the other two thirds of people who are diagnosed with Hepatitis C, the illness used to be progressive and lifelong but now there is an effective cure which works, in most cases, within weeks.
Ann Mason, GOSHH Manager, said “This new medication will change the lives of those living with the Hepatitis C virus. Once you are accepted onto the treatment programme, the virus can be cleared fairly quickly.”
The Mid Western Hep C Network is campaigning for Hep C treatment to be made available in Limerick. Sinead Carey from McGarry House says “As a service, Novas, McGarry House has observed the challenges faced by our clients in accessing treatment when diagnosed with Hepatitis C. At present, the requirement that a person travels to Dublin, Cork, or Galway for essential treatment puts a huge barrier in place. Homeless people already have to overcome a very complex range of issues, including lack of accommodation, financial issues, mental health issues and addiction. To be faced with the challenge of having to travel for treatment is a huge obstacle and is difficult to understand given that we have a large hospital serving the Mid-West region on our doorstep. We feel very strongly that a person’s geographical location should not impact upon their treatment outcomes and that access to healthcare is a fundamental right.”
Living with Hepatitis comes with its own challenges. GOSHH have developed a peer support network in the Mid-West for people who have been diagnosed with Hep C and want to know more about what that might mean for their family and friends. Susan, who has received the new treatment for Hep C and is now cured, says “In 2012 I was hospitalized with bleeding oesophageal varices & liver cirrhosis. After a few months I was doing better but was then diagnosed with Hep C. I knew nothing about Hepatitis so I thought this was a death sentence; four years later and I’m still here. In Mar 2015 I finished a three month course of Sovaldi (the new hepatitis treatment) & I have been clear of the virus ever since. Hopefully everyone living with hepatitis will also get this cure”.
Look out for the #NoHep campaign being promoted through GOSHH social media over the coming days.
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