Prevention of new infections

Hepatitis C is a preventable disease and yet the number of people acquiring new infections in the UK has not fallen. There have been dramatic improvements in accessing effective treatments, however, HCV elimination in the UK will not be achieved by simply increasing the number of patients who receive treatment. Evidence suggests that treatment as prevention can work but only if sufficient needle and syringe programmes (NSP) and access to opioid substitution therapy (OST) services exist.

The WHO Global Health Sector Strategy has set out elimination targets that call for a reduction in new cases of HCV. Currently the UK will not meet the target of a 30% reduction in new infections by 2020 and more must be done if we are to meet the target of an 80% reduction in new infections by 2030. Most new infections in the UK are acquired via injecting drug use which means that a comprehensive and effective range of interventions to prevent HCV infections amongst people who inject drugs (PWID) is required.

Sharing of injecting equipment remains common in the UK and levels have remained unchanged for many years. Comprehensive needle and syringe provision, health education and promotion of safer injecting practices combined with OST is central to our efforts to reduce BBV transmission.  We believe these interventions are vital to achieving and maintaining the UK’s hepatitis C elimination goal. These combined measures will also lead to a reduction in drug related harms and improve the overall health and wellbeing of people who use drugs.

As a leading actor in efforts to eliminate hepatitis C in the UK, The Hepatitis C Trust aims to ensure that preventable infections are avoided, including the risk of reinfection.

To achieve this, we have 3 key prevention objectives:

  1. Optimal and equitable needle and syringe provision for all.
  2. Consistent and accessible education and information around safer injecting and BBVs
  3. High quality, effective, accessible and individually optimised OST alongside NSP. 

We will achieve these by working collaboratively with communities of people 'at risk of' or affected by hepatitis C across the drug and alcohol sector and within health services. This will require a range of approaches that include direct service provision, trialling innovative models of delivery, advocacy, representation, awareness raising and research.