Jordan Davis of the Boys and Girls Club of Williams Lake and street nurse Marijean Day are hoping World Hep Day on July 28 will help bring awareness about the virus and encourage everyone to get tested.
“It’s an issue because people aren’t getting tested for it,” said Davis, who is the blood born infection harm reduction program worker for the club.
“People need to advocate from themselves because Hep C can be very detrimental to their health.”
Hepatitis C is a virus, infection, that causes liver disease and inflammation of the liver.
Day said it is estimated about one in 100 people have Hep C and don’t even know it.
The disease, which is treatable, can be contracted through shared drug equipment, unprotected sex and sharing household razors or toothbrush with someone infected, to name a few.
“The message is everybody needs to get a baseline Hep C test,” said Day.
The women will be at the Salvation Army on July 28 over the lunch hour with more information on the virus and testing.
Meanwhile, the Hep C Clinic that opened in Williams Lake at the Atwood Clinic in April, is seeing about 10 referrals a month.
Internal medicine specialist Dr. Alexandra King from the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre (VIDC) who comes to Williams Lake each month to work in the clinic said with the help of Dr. Jolien Steyl the clinic has a nice referral pathway.
“The family doctors refer patients to Dr. Steyl who has agreed to be the GP lead for the community,” King said. “I come and go, so we really need some expertise on the ground to help people who are going through treatment and to get people into treatment. Dr. Steyl’s agreed to take that role.”
King and Steyl also apply for medication on behalf of the patients and Steyl administers it at the clinic.
There can be delays in getting approval for medication because it’s expensive, King said, noting just last week four patients were approved which is fantastic because normally they would have to go to Kamloops for treatment.
Recently King and her staff hosted a pop-up clinic at the Salvation Army in Williams Lake, where people could be tested for antibodies.
They use an oral swab so there are no needles and within 10 minutes they can tell if someone is antibody positive or antibody negative.
It is an initial screen so people need further testing, but it’s a way to see people who may not be connecting with the health care system.
At the pop-up clinic two people tested anti-body positive so King sent a letter to their family doctors requesting follow up.
Aside from treating patients, the clinic has also been helping some patients obtain disability insurance.
Having a regular income, helps people plan and stabilize their lives, King said.
Since 2010 the available treatment for Hep C, which is one pill a day, has seen 90 to 95 per cent effectiveness.
On the August long weekend a patient from Williams Lake will complete his treatment, King added.
Recent research by the BC Centre for Disease Control estimates 75 per cent of people with Hep C were born between 1945 and 1965, King said.
“Many of them may have got it through other means than infectious drug use. There was a tainted blood scandal, there has been hospital equipment not cleaned properly or they may have had surgery while travelling overseas, there are various ways.”
It’s important that Generation Hep understand they should get tested and there is treatment, King stressed.
Last month King gave a presentation in 100 Mile House in an effort to determine how the clinic can work with neighbouring communities.
“The one-hour drive to Williams Lake from 100 Mile House may be too much for some people so maybe it makes sense to go there for half a day and half a day to Quesnel,” she said.
“It is a work in progress, but there’s a lot of good will and interest in trying to make it work.”