Whilst there are a number of risk factors, people who inject drugs bear the burden of Hepatitis C with 95% of new infections occurring within the injecting community. People who inject drugs make up a sizeable proportion of the 25,000 New Zealanders that we estimate are unaware that they may have hepatitis C.
Earlier this year a pan genotypic treatment, Mavriet became freely available and signaled a new era in Hepatitis C testing and treatment in New Zealand . “The funding of Mavriet and availability of this pan genotypic treatment is an absolute game changer and will make an enormous difference in the lives of many in our community”, says Kathryn Leafe, Executive Director.
“Our community is often reluctant to engage with mainstream health services and therefore outreach through needle exchanges is critical in raising awareness of hepatitis C testing and treatment. We have been working with our partners and other healthcare providers to bring services to our community”, comments Kathryn.
This year the NZNEP received a grant from the Hepatitis Foundation to run an awareness campaign specifically targeted at those currently injecting drugs. The campaign “Know It, Treat It, Beat It” has included information on hepatitis C, testing and treatment, as well as staying safe and steps to reduce the risk of infection or re-infection.
The campaign has also included a series of peer stories which have been recorded in a booklet and on a series of video’s. These stories from within our community are particularly important in raising awareness about Hepatitis C and providing hope to others. “Given the stigma and discrimination around drug use and injecting drug use particularly, often our community doesn’t access mainstream health services. Hearing from others about testing and treatment, will encourage others to get tested, treated and cured”, says Kathryn. The stories include needle exchange staff, an academic and a former parliamentarian, Sue Bradford. Sue in her recent autobiography spoke candidly of her history of drug use and recently spoke to the NZ Harm Reduction Conference about having Hepatitis C. “Having someone like Sue share her story is so important to our community and addressing the stigma around hepatitis C. We are grateful for her support of our campaign and the bravery that she and all those who have shared their story have shown”.
Hepatitis C is now treatable and curable, with a 98% success rate post treatment.
2) See https://knowtreatbeat.org.nz/ and twitter, facebook, instagram