Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can cause chronic infection, leading to serious liver damage and even premature death. Many people are unaware that they have hepatitis C, as symptoms often do not show for many years. If left untreated, it can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis or liver failure.
There is emerging evidence that South Asian communities may be at increased risk of hepatitis C infection compared to the general population in England. Higher rates of infection are associated with risks such as medical or dental treatment abroad using unsterile medical equipment and sharing of razors.
There is currently no vaccine against hepatitis C so prevention of new infections is particularly important. Treatment is available and is effective at clearing the virus, on average, in 55 per cent of these treated. Success rates are higher for certain types of types of the virus.
The campaign, which launched this week, features radio, press and TV advertising to remind people from South Asian communities of life experiences that could have exposed them to infection.
Stars backing the campaign are Radio Presenters DJ MissyD, Eastenders’ actor, Ameet Chana, DJ San-j-Sanj, Music producer Rishi Rich, Bhangra artist H Dhami, RnB singer Veronica, MC Mumzy and Pakistani actress Sakina Samo and TV presenter Faryal Khan.
A spokesperson for the South Asian Health Foundation’s (SAHF), Dr Saket Singhal said:
“We strongly support this initiative as there is evidence that chronic hepatitis C infection is more common in the South Asian population.
“It is therefore, of vital importance that both the public and healthcare professional providers are aware of hepatitis C and the potential dangers to health posed by this virus.”
TV and radio personality Ameet Chana, who is supporting this campaign said:
“The best way to tackle hepatitis C is to increase awareness and understanding of the transmission routes of the infection. I’m supporting this campaign to do just that – the more you know the better”.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said:
“South Asian people are at increased risk of hepatitis C infection. It can take many years or even decades for symptoms to appear, and if left untreated can lead to liver damage and premature death.”
“The good news is that there is effective treatment that can help many people. So it’s vital that people who may have been at risk of infection seek medical advice and get tested.”
The campaign, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the virus being named, aims to inform people about the ways in which hepatitis C can be transmitted and to encourage them to seek advice from their GP if they may have been at risk of infection. GPs are being urged to continue offering advice and testing patients who may be unknowingly carrying the virus, as effective treatment is available to prevent serious liver disease.
You can get more information on hepatitis C from the NHS Hepatitis C Information Line on 0800 181 4774 where you can speak to an adviser in your language in confidence. You can also visit the NHS hepatitis C website: www.nhs.uk/hepc/southasian