Campaign to aid hepatitis C sufferers
Reporter: Lucy Kenderdine
Date published: 30 May 2016
A NEW campaign aiming to empower patients with hepatitis C to access treatment has been launched after research found that 97 per cent of those diagnosed with the condition are untreated.
The "I'm Worth..." campaign, from research-based pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, aims to tackle the stigma and discrimination patients may feel in order to encourage them to access treatment.
Hepatitis C, a blood borne virus, affects an estimated 214,000 people in the UK, with half unaware they have the virus. In Oldham, 1,481 people are estimated to be living with hepatitis C.
Almost 90 per cent of cases occur in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past. Other causes include contaminated blood transfusions and unprotected sex.
As a result of this, people feel frequently blamed for developing the disease and viewed as "irresponsible" or "unworthy" of treatment with more than half of people living with the virus reporting experiencing stigma due to their diagnoses.
Dr Andrew Ustianowski, North Manchester General Hospital said: "Some people with hepatitis C worry about coming forward for care.
"This can come from not knowing what to expect, a dislike of being in hospitals or even a fear of being judged.
"Whatever the reason, my role as a doctor is to help them make the best choice for their health by providing advice and information on options.
"Hepatitis C shouldn't be ignored; no-one deserves to live with a potentially life threatening disease when today's treatments offer a possible cure."
The "I'm Worth..." campaign aims to show that no matter how a person caught hepatitis C it is more important to ensure they get the care and treatment they deserve.
It has been supported by a variety of leading UK advocacy groups including Liver4Life, Adfam, Blenheim CDP, Addaction and the British Liver Trust.
The campaign also calls on the public, health service providers, policy makers and the media to do their part in ending the stigma.
Without treatment hepatitis C can cause serious or potentially life-threatening complications like liver cancer.
These complications - and associated costs to the NHS - could be avoided if people with hepatitis C had early access to treatment.
For more visit the "I'm Worth?" website www.imworth.co.uk