'Get tested' call by hepatitis campaigners

HEPATITIS C sufferers and campaigners travelled to London this week to urge people to Get Tested.

The campaign at the first health reception of the new Parliament, hosted by Lord Parkinson, was to mark World Hepatitis Day.

Huddersfield Hep C sufferer Gerry Radcliffe joined hundreds of others, including campaigner Sadie Frost, to call for greater awareness of the condition.

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Gerry believes he contracted the potentially fatal condition when he received a blood transfusion following an accident while working in the United Arab Emirates in the mid-1990s. The disease was not detected for 10 years.

Gerry, who now suffers cirrhosis – Hep C attacks the liver – is urging people to get tested. "There are 500 million people in the world diagnosed with the disease, half-a-million of those are in the UK. In reality, that figure is not the whole picture because of the number of people who do not know they have it. "Possibly because of the link to drugs, there is a stigma attached. Some people, even some in my family, don't like to talk about it. I was infected during a medical procedure, so where does that stigma come from?"

Monday's reception at Parliament also saw the launch of an international music album, called This Day, showcasing original collaborations and tracks from David McAlmont, Skye (of Morcheeba), Siobhan Donaghy, Bernard Butler, Melanie Laurent and other leading global music artists.

The album highlights the tragically low levels of awareness of hepatitis B and C which affect 1 in 12 of the global population (15 times as many as HIV/AIDS) and which kill one person every 30 seconds.

In the UK, between 250,000 and 500,000 people are living with hepatitis C but only about 100,000 have been diagnosed.

The reception came at the mid-point of a national hepatitis C testing week, organised by The Hepatitis C Trust, with buses visiting cities throughout the UK offering the new OraQuick(R) hepatitis C on-the-spot saliva test, the first hepatitis C test with a CE Mark to be able to give a result in 20 minutes.

It is part of a new drive by the charity to improve access to testing and increase diagnosis, and the reception will also see the launch of a national project to offer hepatitis B and C tests in pharmacies and a GP awareness project that will be powered by volunteers, most of whom are hepatitis C patients themselves.

Charles Gore, chief executive of The Hepatitis C Trust and president of the World Hepatitis Alliance, said: "If we diagnose people, we can treat them and cure their liver disease. If we don't, thousands of them in the UK will die. It's that simple."

Speaking about hepatitis globally, he added: "I am thrilled that celebrities and musicians are supporting the efforts of patient groups across the world. Millions of lives can be saved simply through better awareness. World Hepatitis Day is the chance to shout the 'get tested' message on a global scale.

"If we shout loud enough, the World Health Organisation, which is right now considering the first ever resolution on viral hepatitis, will be forced to listen and to act."

Actress and designer Sadie Frost is a long-time supporter of The Hepatitis C Trust as a result of the tragic loss of her father to the condition.

She said: "I am here to make people aware of the risks and get tested. It could have saved my father's life and it will certainly save millions of others."

www.hepctrust.org.uk

Hep B and C – The Facts

Hepatitis B and C are infectious blood borne, cancer-causing viruses that mainly attack the liver. Without diagnosis or treatment they can be fatal.

1 in 12 people are infected with hepatitis B or C. Most do not know that they have the condition.

This is 15 times the number infected with HIV/AIDS.

Between them, hepatitis B and C kill one million people a year.