NHS Forth Valley joins campaign to encourage testing for hepatitis C

NHS Forth Valley is one of six Health Boards in Scotland taking part in a series of local social media campaigns designed to encourage anyone who has dropped out of specialist treatment for Hepatitis C to re-engage with health professionals. It also targets others who may have been at risk of contracting the disease to come forward and get tested.

#BeHepCFree is based on an Australian campaign and using input from patients, practitioners and demographic data, the campaign uses targeted Facebook ads for a positive health purpose.

Until relatively recently the treatment for Hepatitis C included weekly injections for a year with side effects that mimic flu symptoms, and at the end of the 12 months there was less than a 1 in 2 chance of a cure.  Many people with the illness didn’t complete or even start treatment. Now Hepatitis C treatment has been transformed by a wave of new tablet-only medicines with minimal side effects.

Of the estimated 21,000 people in Scotland living with Hepatitis C half of them are undiagnosed and many of those who know they have the illness never come forward for specialist care. However people affected by Hep C very much agree that the new tablet based treatments are much better with fewer side effects. One tablet per day for eight weeks produces a 98% cure rate.

Carol Crawford, NHS Forth Valley Public Health Lead for Hepatitis C, said: “If you have ever been at risk of contracting Hepatitis C, either many years ago or currently, please get tested – just contact the local Hepatology Service on 01786 434079 or your local GP. If you are positive you can get treated right away as there is no waiting list.  The message is get tested now – get treated – get cured.”

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