20 MAY 2008

World Hepatitis C Day marked

World Hepatitis C Day was 19 May 2008. I joined Dover Hepatitis C campaigner Tracy de Gietelink to mark the day.

Few infected people know they have the condition. Tracy, who herself has Hepatitis C, runs the "Woman Aloud" The C in Me workshop to bring attention to Hepatitis C and how carriers can avoid infecting others.

Tracy told me that this condition is the leading cause of liver disease worldwide. Yet Hepatitis C has a 'zero' profile amongst the general population in this country.

Hepatitis C is most commonly associated with drug users, and the prison population, so measures are already in place in these areas, to educate and identify carriers of the virus. The workshop seeks to reach the people, especially women, (there's been a 40% increase in ladies over the age of 60, diagnosed with Hepatitis C, in the last year) who have had either medical or dental procedures, before 1991, (when proper Hep C screening of blood donations began). They might have unknowingly received contaminated blood products.

Another group that need flagging up are the growing amount of people of all ages having body art and piercings. As Hepatitis C shows no symptoms, until the end, who knows who sat in that chair before them? It could have been anyone. Tracey was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1991… after having given blood on 3 prior occasions.

I was really impressed by Tracy. She is doing fantastic work - not for herself, but to warn others to take care. That's real compassion. I admire Tracy so much for her work. She highlighted to me the importance for routine medical testing for Hepatitis C.

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Charlie Elphicke

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