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Hepatitis C patients helping eliminate the virus

A new report from  the Hepatitis C Trust has highlighted the charity’s pioneering use of peer-to-peer support.

People who have lived experience of hepatitis C deliver workshops and one-to-one support to increase awareness of hepatitis C, encourage people to access testing, and support engagement with treatment.

This forms a key part of the drive to eliminate the virus as a public health concern by 2030.

In September, Public Health England published estimates finding that over 90,000 people in the UK may have hepatitis C but be unaware they are infected. This is because for many years the virus often has no obvious symptoms. People can therefore live with hepatitis C for decades without being diagnosed, despite the fact that serious liver damage can occur: untreated cases can cause fatal cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Peer support is particularly effective at engaging the more marginalised populations where hepatitis C is most prevalent, such as those who inject drugs and people who are homeless.

The Hepatitis C Trust’s peer programme involves more than 140 people who build relationships based on shared experience.

Over 25,000 people have had contact with the peer programme since it began, with the charity running services in community settings.

Rachel Halford, Chief Executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, said:

The people we are trying to reach and engage are from some from the most marginalised groups in society where health is seldom a priority.

The shared understanding that comes from common experience is really important and can have a life-changing impact. Peer-to-peer support – encouraging people to get tested, access healthcare and get treatment – will ensure that we not only eliminate hepatitis C by 2030 but also ‘leave no one behind.

Image: Hepatitis C Trust

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Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise communications.