Forward Leeds tested more people for the hepatitis C virus in May 2021 than in all of 2020.
The service tested 481 people in May compared to 304 in the whole of 2020. This was as part of a month-long campaign for increased testing called, ‘Be Free of Hep C’. The campaign is a collaboration between the Hepatitis C Trust and alcohol and drug services across England.
Hepatitis C Lead at Forward Leeds Anthony Broderick (far right above) said: “It’s been a fantastic achievement by all of our staff to get so many of the people who use our service tested. This national campaign has been a big help in raising awareness and working alongside the Hepatitis C Trust has been key.
“Testing can be done now by any trained member of staff at Forward Leeds and people can be immediately referred for treatment here at Forward Leeds if needed. Long-term our aim is to help Leeds ‘micro-eliminate’ hep C as they have done in other areas of England.”
The hepatitis C virus is carried in the blood. It affects the liver by preventing it from working properly by infecting the liver cells and causing inflammation.
Micro-elimination of hepatitis C is a strategy to achieve national elimination through initiatives to eliminate hepatitis C for parts of the population, such as geographic areas and age groups.
John Fox from the Hepatitis C Trust (far left above) said: “These testing figures are astounding. The Forward Leeds team have surpassed themselves and it’s been great working with them to achieve such high numbers of people getting tested.
“It’s possible to live with hepatitis C for a long time and never know you have the disease until it is too late. Treatment used to be very unpleasant with a limited chance of success. Luckily in the UK now we have a game-changing treatment with much better outcomes. Virtually everyone is cured with a simple course of tablets.”
In the UK, an estimated 215,000 people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus*, and many of those people are in marginalised and underserved parts of our society.
Over time, the virus can cause scarring (fibrosis) which could eventually cause significant damage to the liver (cirrhosis).
If left untreated, 20–25 percent of infected individuals will develop cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis increases the risk of developing liver cancer, which can be fatal.
Untreated hepatitis C can also cause a range of other symptoms, such as: muscular pain and achy joints, pain in the abdominal and liver area, fatigue, depression, headaches, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, nausea and weight loss.