Minister of Health Dr David Clark is urging people to get behind a new campaign to raise awareness about hepatitis C.

“About 50,000 people in New Zealand have the chronic liver infection – roughly the number of people who live in Nelson or Invercargill, or the number of people at a sold out concert at Western Springs,” says David Clark, in reference to this weekend’s Six60 concert. “The problem is almost half of them don’t know it.”

“You can get hep C many ways, like sharing tattoo gear, but the most common is from sharing needles. So if you have ever injected drugs, even just once a long time ago, you should get tested,” he warned.

“Hep C is serious – it can rob you of your energy, it can lead to liver cancer, and it can kill you.

“The good news is that while treatment used to be hit and miss as well as unpleasant, we now have an effective easy cure.”

Earlier this month PHARMAC began funding a new hep C treatment, Maviret, which has the potential to cure more than 99% of cases.

“The biggest issue now is finding those people who don’t know they have the disease so we can treat them, and that’s why this campaign is so timely,” says Clark.

The campaign, a joint initiative between the Hepatitis Foundation of NZ, the Ministry of Health and the Health Promotion Agency, encourages people who could have hepatitis C to get tested.

“It’s important to raise awareness about the risk factors so people can get tested and receive the monitoring and follow-up they need,” Hepatitis Foundation CEO Susan Hay says. “The people we hope to reach have typically been living with hepatitis for some time – who have likely been experiencing some of the worst symptoms of the condition and who are at risk of developing serious liver damage if they don’t realise they have the condition and seek treatment soon.”

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