July 28th 2022 is World Hepatitis Day and Jeff Smith is joining The Hepatitis C Trust in supporting eliminating hepatitis C.
Jeff recently attended The Hepatitis C Trust’s World Hepatitis Day parliamentary reception, speaking with NHS workers and the charity’s peer-led support staff and volunteers about their efforts. Their work involves testing, diagnosing and treating hepatitis C patients in Manchester Withington and across England, as the NHS and partner charities like The Hepatitis C Trust work towards an NHS target to eliminate hepatitis C by 2025.
The Hepatitis C Trust is the UK’s dedicated national hepatitis C charity, supporting those at risk of or living with hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a virus spread by blood-to-blood contact, which can lead to severe and even fatal damage to the liver. It primarily affects those from marginalised backgrounds, including people who inject drugs, homeless people, people in prison, and certain migrant communities. The virus was also transmitted to thousands of people through NHS medical procedures and blood products, currently being examined as part of the Infected Blood Inquiry.
The virus is preventable, treatable and curable, with medications available on the NHS that cure it within 12 weeks in the vast majority of cases. There has been significant progress in recent years towards the target of eliminating hepatitis C in England by 2025, with deaths from hepatitis C-related liver disease down 35% and overall hepatitis C prevalence down 37% since 2015. There is a very real prospect that elimination of hepatitis C as a public health concern in England can be achieved within the next few years.
However, despite the excellent progress that has been made, there remains work to be done to get to elimination. A majority of the estimated 81,000 people in England still living with hepatitis C are undiagnosed and there has also been no decline in the rate of new infections in recent years. Awareness-raising, testing and support for prevention services like needle and syringe exchanges all must be priorities to ensure the elimination target is reached.
Rachel Halford, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, said: “Our World Hepatitis Day parliamentary reception was a wonderful opportunity to not only bring together so many people working towards elimination, but also raise awareness with MPs and keep hepatitis elimination on policymakers’ agendas. It was a moment to celebrate all that’s been achieved, particularly during the COVID-19 lockdowns when the hard work of our staff and volunteers and colleagues in the NHS meant that hepatitis C services in England were maintained to a greater extent than in many other countries. We also hope that those who attended the event will have left galvanised to ensure we keep up momentum as we near elimination.”
Jeff Smith said: “I was pleased to join staff from The Hepatitis C Trust and the NHS for World Hepatitis Day and to celebrate all the progress that has been made towards eliminating this deadly virus. Hepatitis C is preventable, treatable and curable, and I am committed to ensuring the NHS and partner organisations have the resources to see elimination through by 2025. This means getting everyone who needs it tested and treated, and to prevent new cases through good harm reduction services. Together, England can lead the world in eliminating this virus.
“If you think you may have been at risk, I also urge you to get tested. You can check your likelihood of being infected at The Hepatitis C Trust’s website. You can also contact their helpline on 020 7089 6221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.”