People at risk of having the hepatitis C virus are being encouraged to come forward for testing as part of a new Scottish government campaign.
Launching in March, the communications campaign is part of the three-year hepatitis C Action Plan which aims to improve testing, treatment, care and support services in Scotland, with a view to reducing the current hepatitis C epidemic.
By increasing awareness of the virus among at-risk groups, and encouraging them to come forward for testing, the campaign will support the Scottish government’s target to get 2,000 new people into hep C treatment each year.
Before the launch, professionals who have a key role in identifying people at risk – from GPs, health visitors and midwives to addiction staff, social care workers and pharmacists – are being encouraged to update their knowledge and learn more about their role in getting at-risk people into testing and treatment.
Public Health Minister Shona Robison said: “Hepatitis C is a serious illness but, crucially, it can be treated. Early diagnosis and anti-viral treatment completely clears the virus in up to 80 per cent of cases, reducing liver damage and complications, and stopping infected people from transmitting the virus.
“Our campaign aims to get more people to come forward for testing – unless people know they have the virus they cannot be treated.
“Both the public and professional elements of the campaign will also dispel myths and inaccuracies which surround Hep C. For instance, it’s not transmitted through saliva or other body fluids – you can only catch it through blood to blood contact.
“Although most people catch hepatitis C through injecting drug use, 8 in 10 people currently infected are not currently injecting drugs. That’s why the campaign will focus on groups such as former injecting drug users, people who had NHS blood transfusions before 1991 and anyone who may have shared items, such as razors, with someone who has the virus.”
Nurses are among a range of professional groups who have a key role in identifying those who may be at risk and are being encouraged to update their knowledge around the virus.