The more you know, the better: Raising awareness of hepatitis C among South Asian communities

This month saw the start of a new campaign to increase awareness of hepatitis C among South Asian communities and healthcare professionals.

The Health Protection Agency has identified that people originating from the Indian sub-continent are at increased risk of infection. The South Asian campaign is weighted towards Pakistani communities as current evidence indicates that they are more at risk of infection than other South Asian communities.

The campaign aims to inform people about the ways in which hepatitis C can be transmitted and to encourage them to seek advice from their GP if they may have been at risk of infection.

Raising awareness in the community
Carrying the message ‘Hepatitis C: the more you know, the better’, the new advertising and PR campaign have been launched at a national level to raise awareness through the South Asian media.

The advertising campaign is taking place across ethnic TV and radio stations, magazines and newspapers encouraging people to recall times when they could have been exposed to the virus in South Asian countries, such as through medical or dental treatment abroad with unsterilised medical equipment,.

This has been supported at a local level, in areas with large South Asian communities, through outreach work with community centres and mosques.

 



The South Asian Health Foundation (SAHF) backs the campaign.  Dr Saket Singhal, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Sandwell General Hospital in West Bromwich and member of the SAHF, said: We strongly support this initiative as there is evidence that chronic hepatitis C infection is more common in the South Asian population. It is therefore, of vital importance that both the public and healthcare professional providers are aware of hepatitis C and the potential dangers to health posed by this virus.

For healthcare professionals
As hepatitis C rarely carries any symptoms, healthcare professionals need to be alert to the risk factors in patients. GPs are being encouraged to continue offering advice and testing patients who may be unknowingly carrying the virus, as effective treatment is available to prevent serious liver disease.

Working with Primary Care Trusts in areas with a high population of people from South Asian countries, the new campaign is helping to equip GPs and other primary healthcare professionals with the knowledge and expertise to deal with enquiries from the community following the launch of the campaign, through the provision of posters and leaflets and a dedicated website at www.nhs.uk/hepatitisc/hcp/Pages/default.aspx

In particular, a new resource has been produced with specific guidance on how to discuss hepatitis C to patients with a South Asian background, which healthcare professionals can order or download from the website along with new leaflets available in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati and Turkish for distribution in patient surgery waiting areas and pharmacies.
 
For further information
Healthcare professionals can get more information on the hepatitis C campaign by visiting www.nhs.uk/hepc/southasian.

General information is also available at www.nhs.uk/hepc

About hepatitis C
  • It is a virus that affects the liver and can cause serious liver disease such as cirrhosis and primary liver cancer.
  • It can affect anyone of any background who comes into contact with the blood of a person infected by hepatitis C.
Risk factors
  • During medical and dental treatment abroad in countries where hepatitis C is common and where infection control measures may not be effective. (This includes blood transfusions, blood products, and organ and tissue transplants where the donors or donations have not been screened for hepatitis C).
  • By having a tattoo, an ear piercing, a body piercing or acupuncture with equipment that is not sterile.
  • By sharing razors, toothbrushes or needles and syringes which have been contaminated with blood from someone who has the virus.
  • From a mother with hepatitis C to her baby, before or during the birth.
  • A blood transfusion (before September 1991) or blood products like clotting factors (before 1986) in the UK. All blood in the UK is now screened for hepatitis C.
  • Through unprotected sex (without a condom) with someone who has the virus.
  • By sharing equipment for injecting drugs, even if you only did this once or twice a long time ago.

 

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