DHI, AWP lead the charge against Hepatitis C in B&NES

DHI, AWP lead the charge against Hepatitis C in B&NES

The B&NES Drug and Alcohol Treatment Service is delighted to announce the micro-elimination of Hepatitis C in the B&NES area. The partnership, a collaboration between DHI and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP), began working to eliminate the virus from the locality in 2020 – and we are thrilled to announce the success of the project.

Hepatitis C (commonly referred to as Hep C) is an infectious disease that mainly affects the liver and is primarily spread through infected blood. This places the drug injection community at higher risk of infection. If left untreated, Hep C can be life-threatening – but recent advancements in the treatment of the disease, such as antivirals, mean it is possible to cure the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set out plans to eliminate Hep C worldwide by 2030, with NHS England setting a more aggressive target for 2050. Micro-eliminations such as this are vital in tackling Hep C at local levels, leading to greater testing, diagnoses, treatment, and eventual elimination of at-risk people. Those targets are:

  • 100% of people accessing drug and alcohol treatment services are offered testing for Hepatitis C.
  • 100% of people who are or who have previously injected drugs have been tested for Hepatitis C.
  • 90% of people who are or who have previously injected drugs receive an annual test for Hepatitis C.
  • 90% of people who receive a positive Hepatitis C test result commence treatment Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project had a difficult start.

However, with the relentless effort of the staff in B&NES, from speaking to service users, encouraging people to get tested, and eventually treated, we are now able to say the disease has been eliminated at a micro level in the area.

“The project has been successful due to a whole team effort, but with particular thanks to Katja Geitel,” said Thea Pflaum, B&NES Drug and Alcohol Service Manager.

“To coordinate, identify, and test the right people in the right time frames was difficult, but with hard work, collaboration, and help from the Hep C Trust – we were able to make this incredible achievement.”

People who use drugs – particularly those who inject - continue to be stigmatized in our society. This stigma often leads to a reduction in healthcare treatment and worsening outcomes for treatable diseases – such as Hep C.

With this announcement, we are moving in the right direction and taking a clear step forward in the drug-taking community and the wider community.

Louise Hansford of Hep C U Later, the NHS-led task force set out to eliminate Hep C by the 2025 deadline set by NHS England, praised the “robustness of our annual blood-borne virus (BBV) reviews in ensuring the right people get tested at the right time.”

She also praised the work of Katja Geitel, the BBV Nurse who led the project, for her tireless and innovative work, collaboration with Sara Gardner from the RUH and the wider team who worked towards being able to declare this micro-elimination.

Congratulations to the team.

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