The need to make hep C testing and treatment accessible
The I’m Worth… campaign is a disease awareness programme that has been developed and paid for by Gilead Sciences Ltd.
A recent survey published in Drink and Drug News Magazine’s December issue showed that people affected by hepatitis C still face challenges in finding information and treatment. The survey suggested that there is a general lack of understanding of hep C as well as issues trusting the team providing healthcare services.
While this may be true, we know through our work at Hep C Hants Peer to Peer project, which runs as part of Inclusion Recovery Hampshire, that it is possible to set up services to ensure that many more people affected by hep C find it easy to seek diagnosis and access care. The constant support of our mentors, who have lived experience of hep C and its treatment, encourages openness and contributes to overcoming stigma, often the hardest barrier to hep C treatment.
As part of our work with hep C, we speak extensively to other support services in our local community (probation services, night shelters, rehabs) to emphasise that a hep C test is crucial. Hepatitis C is treatable and curable for the majority of patients, so that people at risk of hep C get the right information and are encouraged to get tested.
We also know that worries about venous access for blood borne virus testing mean people are reluctant to seek testing and treatment. It is possible to make testing as accessible as possible and offer more convenient screenings like mouth swab and dry blood spot tests. This is one example of how the lived experience of our staff and volunteers has helped us set up hep C testing services which suit the people we reach.
That’s not all… It’s also important to create a safe place where our service users can build a trusted relationship with a healthcare professional. We run hepatology clinics in our hubs, staffed by nurses, where people living with hep c can get most of their treatment. To make specialist care equally available to all, we’ve also pioneered a joined-up approach with Wessex Operational Delivery Netwoork. Patient appointments are arranged at convenient times, making it possible for our nurses to accompany groups of service users to the hospital. With this simple change, we have been able to increase attendance by 98%.
For us at Inclusion P2P, we know that with the right support to people living with hep C, we can see very positive outcomes. Our mentors are passionate about helping other people through diagnosis and treatment. To date, we have diagnosed 153 people and engaged with over 700 service users. We are or have been supporting 208 patients through their diagnosis and in the last two years alone we’ve supported 73 people to engage in hep C treatment.
As former service users, we are very aware of the needs of people affected by hep C, and in our work with Inclusion P2P, we are committed to making sure services work best for local people. The findings of the DDN survey show that there is more work to be done – but ensuring services work for those that use them and those affected by or at risk of hep C is essential to engaging those at risk of hep C. It will also generate cost savings in terms of treating earlier and reducing waste of resources. We need to think differently to make a difference.
If you’re feeling isolated, misinformed or scared, or in need of information and support, your local hep C service will give you all the advice you need to understand and take control of your health.
If you’d like more information on how you can support other people affected by hep C please get in touch with the I’m Worth… team at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Download our helpful step-by-step guide below on how to receive the hepatitis C care you deserve!