There are more than 200,000 people in the UK living with hepatitis C, but only half of these are diagnosed and as few as 3 per cent are receiving treatment.1 If left untreated, hepatitis C can cause serious or potentially life threatening complications like liver cancer.2 The majority of people living with hepatitis C are from disadvantaged or marginalised communities.
People who inject drugs or have injected them in the past are at the highest risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C. This highlights the importance of ensuring those affected are receiving appropriate support and guidance, to encourage timely diagnosis and the best possible care. Peer support can play a vital role in helping people in this way.
A hepatitis C diagnosis can feel daunting for people suffering with drug or alcohol addiction and taking the first step towards finding support can be challenging. Peer worker Tim Palin knows this first hand, having had direct experience beating his own drug addiction and hepatitis C. Tim now provides support to people trying to make a recovery and acts as a campaign ambassador for I’m Worth…, an empowerment programme for people with hepatitis C in the UK.
On his journey to recovery, speaking to peers allowed him to understand that he was not alone and gave him the chance to connect with people who offered a more personal perspective as they had been through similar challenges and overcome difficult times in their lives.
‘It was incredibly important and valuable for me to have someone to turn to when I was diagnosed. The diagnosis was a shock and the course of treatment I was given was really tough. Having people to talk to who had gone through similar experiences made the journey easier,’ says Tim.
Peer support meetings offer a safe and confidential environment for people trying to beat addiction to discuss thoughts, feelings and experiences related to diagnosis, treatment and recovery. They can give people on the road to recovery information about accessing care, point them towards organisations that may be able to support, and offer tips and guidance on how to stay positive.
‘I really appreciated the support I received from the staff at Telford After Care Team which helped me immensely at a time when I needed it most. Now that I no longer use substances, I take pride in being a peer worker and helping others who are going through similar experiences,’ says Tim.
No matter what is stopping someone from getting the care they need, a support network can play an important role in recovery.
‘Opening up about my past experiences and hepatitis C diagnosis was such a relief, and with the right support I was able to work towards a more positive future,’ says Tim. ‘There are so many organisations and groups that can provide support and guidance for these difficult times – the first step is reaching out.’
Tim is a campaign ambassador for I’m Worth…, which aims to address the stigma that many people with hepatitis C face, encouraging and empowering people living with hepatitis C to access care and services no matter how they were infected. You can view his story, alongside others at imworth.co.uk/ambassadors.
1 Public Health England. Hepatitis C in the UK. 2015/2014 [Accessed October 2016]
2 NHS Choices: Hepatitis C. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hepatitis-c/pages/introduction.aspx [Accessed October 2016]
The I’m Worth… campaign has been developed and paid for by Gilead Sciences Ltd, a science-based pharmaceutical company. Content development has been supported by input from numerous patient groups with an interest in hepatitis C in the UK.
For more information on the campaign and to access materials designed to support people living with hepatitis C please visit www.imworth.co.uk
November 2016, HCV/UK/16-10/CI/2599