Political leaders from Scotland and Wales have spoken out to reaffirm their commitment to eliminating hepatitis C for World Hepatitis Day on the 28th July 2019. Their full statements can be found below.
First Minister for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am proud that Scotland is recognised as a world leader in combatting hepatitis C and I am determined to maintain this position. World Hepatitis Day is an important opportunity to restate the Scottish Government’s commitment to treating people living with hepatitis C and to eliminating the virus.
“More people than ever are being diagnosed and treated for hepatitis C in Scotland, and so are spared from the increased risk of fatal liver disease and cancer. To build on this momentum we need to continue to do all we can to reach out to the thousands of people who live with hepatitis C undiagnosed and who are unaware of the damage being done to their health. Many people experience no symptoms for decades after infection, so I hope this World Hepatitis Day will raise public awareness and encourage people to get tested and treated.”
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford said: “World Hepatitis Day is an important opportunity to celebrate everything Wales has done to tackle hepatitis C.
“Wales is leading the way in identifying the 50% of people living with hepatitis C who are unaware they have been infected. As well as various community outreach pilot projects, the exciting appointment of a national pharmacy lead will drive forward efforts to increase testing and treatment of hepatitis C in community pharmacies.
“Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the clinical community and a host of organisations and bodies, we are making progress towards eliminating hepatitis C. The Welsh Government is committed to eliminating hepatitis C.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “While Scotland has taken great strides in tackling hepatitis C, it is important to emphasise that the journey is not yet complete.
“With a high number of conditions still going undiagnosed, it’s vital that we continue to raise awareness of hepatitis C and how swift treatment can reduce the likelihood of serious liver conditions developing.
“Ultimately, in this fight there is only one winner – by remaining vigilant, by encouraging more people to get tested and by ensuring treatment is there for those that need it we can eliminate the disease as a public health concern and that’s why I’m proud to support World Hepatitis Day.”
Scottish Labour Leader Richard Leonard said: “Hepatitis C is a health inequalities issue which we have a moral imperative to treat. Over half of those living with the virus in Scotland are from the poorest fifth of society, with most people having been infected through injecting drugs. The current landscape surrounding hepatitis C provides an extraordinary opportunity to cure thousands of marginalised people of a potentially deadly virus and to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health concern.
“However, in order to achieve this we need to find the 10,500 people living with hepatitis C in Scotland who do not know they have it. Hepatitis C is called the ‘silent killer’ because most people who have it experience no, or very unspecific, symptoms. This World Hepatitis Day, I hope everyone who thinks they may be at risk goes to their GP to get tested and treated.”
Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies said: “Around 12,000 people in Wales currently live with hepatitis C and only half of these people are aware they are infected. Wales has made great progress in finding and treating those previously undiagnosed, and this World Hepatitis Day we must build on this momentum to ensure people do not fall between the gaps.
“If we are to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat and prevent serious liver damage for thousands of people, we need a concerted effort from the Welsh Government. This needs to build on the work that has already been done by developing an ambitious elimination strategy.
“I hope World Hepatitis Day will raise awareness and lead to more people being tested and treated.”
Leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price said: “We have a unique opportunity to eliminate hepatitis C in Wales, an achievement which would be truly historic and, by treating the estimated 12,000 people living with the virus in Wales, would protect people from an increased risk of liver cancer and cirrhosis.
“Current tablet-based treatment allows for people to get rid of the virus quickly, effectively, and without impacting on their everyday lives. However, to capitalise on these advancements we need to spread the word to the thousands of people living in Wales who remain undiagnosed or have been diagnosed with hepatitis C but not yet sought treatment.
“Public Health Wales’ ongoing re-engagement initiative to find patients previously tested positive but not yet treated is encouraging, but a national awareness campaign is clearly needed if the Welsh Government are to commit to eliminating hepatitis C.”