An online event by NHS England marked the start of the 10th World Hepatitis Day, with the slogan ‘Hepatitis can’t wait’. The event reaffirmed the commitment to eliminating hepatitis C in England ahead of the world goal of 2030.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic we were still on track to do this, said Mark Gillyon-Powell, head of programme for HCV elimination at NHS England. The operational delivery networks working with key partners had created clear pathways with curative treatment offered to all, with no limits.
Philippa Easterbrook a senior scientist at The World Health Organization provided a global picture of the WHO strategy to eliminate all forms of viral hep C and the guidance for countries to work towards this.
Only ten years ago many services excluded people using drugs from treatment, reflected Graham Foster, national clinical lead for HCV at NHS England. But pioneering work by a few projects had helped to change attitudes, so that by 2015 addiction treatment services were at the heart of the elimination strategy. Patients were no longer alone on the treatment journey, he said, with vital peer-led support provided in partnership with the Hepatitis C Trust helping to engage people with testing and through treatment. There had been giant steps forward in providing support for people to overcome challenges and move forward, but we needed to keep providing more outreach and more testing to reach people, pushing the barriers to find people and engage with more communities.
Stuart Smith, director of community services at The Hepatitis C Trust stressed the importance of World Hepatitis Day in raising awareness, and the way the event had evolved with increased community engagement was helping to do this. ‘As the road gets narrower’ this was increasingly important to find all the people who needed treatment, he said.
An example of this was the work of Shabana Begum, South Asian outreach officer for the Hepatitis C Trust, who had been tackling high prevalence of the disease within the British South East Asian community. She had seen a change from the initial reluctance to engage, following a campaign to communicate issues and provide education in different languages and through community groups and religious organisations.
Today will see over 170 testing events around the UK in both community settings and among the prison population, as well as a publicity campaign where several major landmarks including St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall are lit up in purple.
Search for local events on an interactive map at hepcfree.com
Download materials at https://www.worldhepatitisday.org/campaign/
Find more information and personal stories at www.hepctrust.org.uk/
Follow the campaign on twitter using #WorldHepatitisDay #HepatitisDay #HepCantWait