2017 with Art on a Postcard and The Hepatitis C Trust
With 2017 just behind us, take a read of this summary of a very successful year.
In May 2016, largely as a result of the The Hepatitis C Trust’s international advocacy, the world including the UK signed up to the goal of the elimination of hep C by 2030. Our advocacy work since then has meant trying to push the four countries of the UK into turning that commitment into meaningful action. So we’ve had meetings with politicians, including ministers, in each country and held round tables to discuss what elimination means for each. We are delighted that as a result of our efforts Wales is developing an elimination plan. In England and Scotland we have provided logistical and secretariat support to formal elimination enquiries that will make recommendations early next year on what their elimination plans should look like.
A key ingredient of elimination is making sure we treat ever increasing numbers of people with the amazing new drugs, which can cure 95% or more of those that take them. Although nowhere is treating as many as we are pushing for, treatment numbers are increasing, in England from 10,000 in 2016/17 to 12,500 in 2017/18 and in Scotland from 1,500 in 2016/17 to 1,800 in 2017/18.
Treatment has focused on those with cirrhosis first and over the last three years we have already seen a dramatic turnaround in what was an ever-increasing death toll from hep C with 2017 figures not yet available but likely to continue the trend. In addition, the need for liver transplants for people with hep C has
fallen by 50%! The price of the drugs has also fallen dramatically so treating people now actually saves money.
Another key element of elimination is finding the 100,000 people who are still undiagnosed and then making sure they are linked into care and treatment. Many of those we need to find and treat belong to disadvantaged or minority communities, such as people who inject drugs and immigrants from countries where hep C is widespread as a result of poor infection control in the healthcare system.
To reach them we have been using our mobile testing van and running peer programmes in drug services and prisons. Demand for our services has meant we need to keep employing new staff. We currently have peer educators working in all London prisons and from January we will be operating in all women’s prisons across the country (about 1 in 4 women in prison have hep C) and will be scoping a peer project in the South Asian community.
Our helpline continues to take about 20 calls a day from people wanting to know if they’ve been at risk and should get tested, people who have just been diagnosed and are scared, people wanting to know about treatment, people wanting support living with hep C, people wanting help to fight stigma and discrimination and, increasingly, people ringing up to share with us their joy at being cured and what an extraordinary difference that has made to their lives.
We are, at last, definitely on the road to elimination of hep C in the UK and your support is what has made that possible. There are a lot of people out there already so grateful for what we’ve been able to do for them and we can do that thanks to you. We – and they – are extremely grateful. But we still have much to do so please keep on supporting us in 2018 by being part of Art on a Postcard.