Forth Valley Hepatitis C Idea Goes National

An idea suggested by an NHS Forth Valley support group, has led to a nationwide art project exploring the stigma surrounding people with Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis See, developed through a partnership between Scottish charities and a number of NHS Boards, deals with the everyday issues that living with Hepatitis C in Scotland brings. The artwork, which will feature at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow on July 28th (World Hepatitis Day) portrays the contrasting identities of people before and after treatment, highlighting the positive impact that treatment has.

Art workshops took place across Scotland, including Falkirk, to help people express the mental and physical challenges of living with Hepatitis C.

NHS Forth Valley Blood Borne Virus Project Manager, Ann McGregor, said the experience had proved cathartic. She explained: “There is no doubt that stigma can affect someone’s self esteem and it was fascinating to see the different ways people chose to express their emotions through artwork. Someone’s view of themselves or a particular behaviour can have a huge impact on whether they engage in treatment and make healthier choices. Building confidence through expression is also a great way of promoting health and wellbeing.”

Around 3,000 people in Forth Valley are believed to be infected with Hepatitis C; known as the silent disease, but so far only around 1,500 have been diagnosed. An awareness campaign, urging anyone who suspects they may have ever been at risk of contracting Hepatitis C, is continuing until the end of July 2017 to coincide with World Hepatitis Day.

New antiviral treatments for Hepatitis C are proving very successful for Forth Valley patients. Health experts say they are more effective; 90-95% compared with 70-75% for traditional treatments, have fewer side effects and are taken for a shorter period (8 – 12 weeks compared with three years).They are also available in tablet form rather than having to be injected.

Additional Information

In Scotland, Hepatitis C infection can be caught by injecting or snorting any drugs, including bodybuilding drugs. Other risks include tattoos (particularly home tattoos), previous blood transfusions, needle stick injuries, sharing piercings, attending traditional barbers using open blades whilst on holiday, or having undertaken any medical, surgical or dental treatments abroad. Hepatitis C is infrequently spread by sexual activity, but other blood borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis B are more commonly spread in this way.

The project ‘Hepatitis See’ has been developed by Hep C Scot, a collective of charities and NHS boards which organise the annual national campaign for World Hepatitis Day in Scotland. Its core members are: Hepatitis Scotland, Waverley Care, Addaction, Positive Help, Hepatitis C Trust and Scottish NHS boards. Other organisations involved in the project include: Art in Healthcare, Forth Valley Recovery Community, Reach Advocacy, Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust, CAIR Scotland and Rabbie’s Tours.

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