Get Tested For HIV and Hepatitis – Single Test and Better Treatment Available

Health experts in NHS Forth Valley are urging people who may have been at risk of contracting a blood-borne virus to have a confidential single finger-prick test which can detect Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B and HIV. It’s part of a major campaign to raise the profile of these illnesses which will include local radio advertising, and posters in shopping centres and GP surgeries.

Around 3,000 people in the health board area are believed to be infected with Hepatitis C – known as the silent disease   – but so far only around 1,500 have been diagnosed.

Carol Crawford, from NHS Forth Valley’s Blood Borne Virus Managed Care Network, explained that advances in medication are producing huge dividends with blood-borne viruses.

She said: “Treatment for Hepatitis and HIV has greatly improved in recent years. For example, most people with Hepatitis C now only have to take a course of pills for around 12 weeks of pills, compared with the traditional weekly injections for 48 weeks which had many side effects. And the cure rate is now in excess of 90%.

“Hepatitis B when diagnosed can be treated and monitored to prevent further liver damage and there is also a highly effective treatment for HIV. This can hugely reduce the viral load of the infection making it much less infectious to other people. HIV is now considered to be a long term condition and many people are now dying with HIV and not from HIV.”

Blood borne viruses (BBVs) are viruses which are in the blood and are spread from person to person by either blood-to-blood contact or by sexual contact.

High risk activities include:

  • Receiving a blood transfusion in the UK before 1991
  • Receiving organ or tissue transplant in the UK before 1982
  • Receiving dental or medical treatments in countries where infection control procedures may be poor
  • Unprotected sexual activity with someone who has a BBV or has been involved in high risk activities
  • Injecting or snorting drugs currently or in the past (including anabolic steroid use), sharing injecting/snorting equipment however long ago even if it was only on 1 occasion.

Carol Crawford added:  “It can take as long as 20 to 30 years for serious liver damage caused by Hepatitis C to become apparent with increasing symptoms, hence the ‘silent killer’ label.

“Diagnosing and treating people who are unaware of their infection will improve their quality of life and help prevent future ill health. It will also reduce the risk of onward transmission to other people.”

People who feel they might have put themselves at risk and would like a blood borne virus test should either make an appointment at their GP surgery, contact Central Sexual Health Services (centralsexualhealth.org) or phone the NHS Forth Valley Hepatology Service direct on 01786 434079.

Issued by NHS Forth Valley’s Communications Department – 01786 457243.