The Humankind charity has launched a new national Hepatitis C Action Plan to mark World Hepatitis Day.
The action plan aims to further increase testing for Hepatitis C across all Humankind services, ensuring specialist pathways and onsite treatment for the virus.
Stacey Smith, Nursing Director at Humankind, which has drug and alcohol recovery services across the country, said: “Hepatitis C is most commonly spread through blood-to-blood contact, such as sharing needles.
“The government have recently identified that people are not getting access to needle and syringe services as they should in this country. At Humankind, we are picking up that challenge. We really need to further embed hepatitis testing and treatment within our services so that there is no closed doors.”
She said testing was vital as there can be no noticeable symptoms in the first stages of infection, although it can cause major health problems.
Meanwhile, Humankind is joining a national campaign to raise awareness of Hepatitis C and the fact it can now be cured by a simple course of tablets.
On World Hepatitis Day, the organisation, along with a range of other charities, NHS Trusts and the Hep C Trust are backing the Hep C U Later campaign online and within its services.
Stacey said: “Our message is that this virus can be treated and can actually be cured easily!
"It’s not like the old treatment which lasted for months and sometimes had side effects. The success rate for this short course of tablets is much higher and it’s unlikely you’ll feel ill.”
Carried in the blood, the hepatitis C virus can adversely affect the liver. It can also cause muscular pain and aching joints, pain in the abdominal and liver area, fatigue, depression, headaches, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, nausea and weight loss.
People who are concerned can get tested within Humankind’s services, or in health centres and GP surgeries. Test kits can be sent to their home.