NSW Hepatitis Awareness Week starts on Monday 27 July 2020, with World Hepatitis Day on Tuesday 28 July.
Far West Local Health District is encouraging people to get tested for Hepatitis C during the week and into August.
“The only way to know your Hep C status is to be tested,” said Mr Trevor Slattery, Coordinator of Blood Borne Virus Prevention Programs for Far West LHD.
Mr Slattery said Hepatitis C infections can be silent, with no obvious symptoms until there is permanent liver damage.
Hepatitis NSW estimates there may be tens of thousands of people in NSW living with Hepatitis C, with many who don’t know they have the virus.
“Long term hepatitis C infections put people at risk of developing fibrosis, cirrhosis, or liver cancer,” said Mr Slattery.
Blood tests for Hepatitis C can be done at local sexual health services and through GPs. Free dried blood spot (DBS) tests are also available and can be done in private with results delivered confidentially. DBS tests can be ordered online at www.dbstest.health.nsw.gov.au, There is no need to see a doctor or attend a clinic.
For those living with the virus, Hepatitis NSW and NUAA have launched a campaign to let people know that Hepatitis C treatment has changed for the better.
“New Hep C treatments are more effective, taken for less time, and with fewer side-effects,” said Sexual Health and Hepatitis C Clinical Nurse Specialist, Ms Jo Lenton.
In the past, hepatitis C treatment was a year-long commitment to injections and oral medication. The new generation of hepatitis C treatments have a cure rate of more than 95%, with little to no side-effects for most people.
“A few pills a day over 8 or 12 weeks can cure hepatitis C for almost everyone living with the virus,” said Ms Lenton.
Sharing needles or injecting equipment, tattoos or piercings done overseas or at home, or any other time where blood to blood contact may have occurred can spread the hepatitis C virus.
“There’s never been a better time to be tested, start hep C treatment and be cured. Treatments have changed for the better, and that’s no fake news,” said Ms Lenton.