It's Time to Act and make #HepatitisCepidemic a priority in Canada
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Hepatitis C is known as the silent epidemic.
It is an acute and chronic liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Around 250,000 Canadians are infected with HCV and British Columbia has 80,000 Canadians living with the virus with 2,500 new cases each year. Let’s shift the focus to a marginalized population with a prevalence of this disease of 35%: prison inmates.
Hepatitis C can also be, and very often is, deeply connected with the mental health of the patient. Recent studies have found that up to 90% of inmates suffer from a diagnosable mental illness and over 50% of the incoming population had a substance use disorder. This is significant considering the main risk factor associated with HCV infection in prison populations is intravenous drug use.
It is difficult to get sterile injecting equipment in prison resulting in widespread sharing of infected equipment and thus, increased risk of HCV transmission.
Combined with indirect costs of hepatitis C, the financial burden of the disease in Correctional Service of Canada has increased almost sevenfold since 2005 to $4.7 million in 2010.
While new treatments have been made available, such as third-generation direct-acting antivirals, the number of inmates treated for hepatitis C dropped significantly of 29% between 2007 and 2013 when the federal prison population increased about 25%. Access to hepatitis C treatment has been sharply reduced in all prisons.
Prisons serve as a major reservoir and untreated hepatitis invariably results in more infections within the general population, and thus a severe long-term financial burden on public health systems.
Incidence must decrease in order to reduce this great economic and health burden on Canadian healthcare.
Let’s turn our words into actions: #TimetoACT!
Like physical health, maintaining good health requires us to develop and maintain good habits and to check in with a professional to avoid issues from becoming more serious than they need to.
Our province can lead the way regarding Hepatitis C treatments. I'm calling on the Honourable Minister of Health to take the steps required to ensure that Canadian inmates have access to proper treatment early on under the Medical Services Plan.
Join me in asking for our government to take ACTION towards guaranteeing accessible treatment in Canada.
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