A powerful new film to raise awareness of hepatitis C and how to avoid it among prisoners, and encourage those at risk to get tested, was previewed on Monday at the annual Health Protection Agency Conference.
Created by the Department of Health, the film provides a gritty insight into the virus including how it can be transmitted, with a particular focus on the risks of intravenous drug use. With estimates showing that more than 50% of prisoners have a history of using drugs, the film aims to educate a crucial audience with a high potential risk of being infected.
Hepatitis C patients, including those with a prison background, explain what the virus is, its varied transmission routes, and how it can be diagnosed and treated. Their real-life testimonials are interspersed with dramatised scenes of the impact of the virus in a prison setting.
Vicky Putt, public health improvement specialist for prisons and NW Health prisons co-ordinator, said: "This film will be an essential resource for prison health professionals, drug teams and education staff involved in educating prisoners on this critical health issue. The film has been tested in a variety of prisons and feedback from prisoners and staff has been overwhelmingly positive. Getting to this audience is always going to be tough but using patient stories with a realistic portrayal of the prison environment appears to be effective in engaging the prison population."
It is estimated that around 200,000 people in England have hepatitis C and of this number, the majority are probably unaware of their condition. Testing "at-risk" people as well as carefully managing those already diagnosed is essential to reducing the prevalence of the disease and ensuring that those infected have access to treatment.
Launched in December 2004, the Department of Health's hepatitis C awareness campaign "FaCe It"aims to raise awareness of the virus and its prevention, diagnosis and treatment, while tackling the stigma often attached to it.
Further information on hepatitis C is available on the website, which can be found at www.hepc.nhs.uk. The film is expected to be distributed to all prisons across England towards the end of the year.