New campaign highlights need for hepatitis testing


A campaign to raise awareness about hepatitis C launches today.

The campaign, a joint initiative between the Hepatitis Foundation of NZ, the Ministry of Health and the Health Promotion Agency, encourages people who could have hepatitis C to get tested. It supports the extensive work many people and organisations around New Zealand are committed to. These include GPs, gastroenterologists, needle exchanges and drug and alcohol support providers.

About 50,000 New Zealanders have hepatitis C. There are often no symptoms, so many people don’t realise they have it. The virus is serious and can lead to liver cancer if not diagnosed early and treated, therefore it’s vital anyone who may be at risk gets themselves tested. Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact. There are many ways to contract it, including injecting drugs and being tattooed with unsterile equipment. The most common way is through sharing needles.

“It’s important to raise awareness about the risk factors so people can get tested and receive the monitoring and follow-up they need,” Hepatitis Foundation CEO Susan Hay says.

“The people we hope to reach have typically been living with hepatitis for some time – who have likely been experiencing some of the worst symptoms of the condition and who are at risk of developing serious liver damage if they don’t realise they have the condition and seek treatment soon.

“The good news is that hepatitis C can be cured, thanks to a new treatment, Maviret, which is now fully funded,” Susan says.

The Hepatitis Foundation provides free services in the community, including a long-term monitoring programme for people living with viral hepatitis. It is also playing a key role in eliminating hepatitis from NZ by 2030. It has operated in New Zealand for the past 30 years and is recognised around the world for its key role in early research around hepatitis B.

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© The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand 2016