For World Hepatitis Day 2023, we want to thank the political leaders from all four nations of the UK who have joined with The Hepatitis C Trust to highlight the importance of meeting the commitments governments of the UK have made to eliminate the hepatitis C virus and to call on people to get tested for the virus if they might be at risk. You can read their statements of support below.
Find out more about how you can get involved in our World Hepatitis Day campaigns and fundraising here.
Will Quince MP, Minister of State for Health and Secondary Care:
“We are making huge headway in eliminating hepatitis C, with England on track to be one of the first countries in the world to do so.
“Deaths and prevalence of the virus have fallen consistently thanks to improvements in diagnosis and access to treatments. We are at the forefront of tackling this serious disease, by swiftly procuring the best treatments and tackling inequalities through targeted screening and will continue to work towards the World Health Organisation’s target of eliminating this virus by 2030.”
Daisy Cooper MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health and Social Care:
“I’m pleased to support World Hepatitis Day 2023, and gladly re-commit my support to the goal of eliminating hepatitis C in England and throughout the UK.
“It is extremely positive that NHS England has announced that we are on track to eliminate hepatitis C by 2025, a vital public health goal for the country. However, there is still more work to be done, particularly with finding the last cohorts of people who have been infected with the virus, as well as tackling the problem of new infections and re-infections.
“To support elimination, we need to see further action taken on expanding and supporting harm reduction measures such as needle and syringe programmes. This is critical for preventing new infections and reinfections of hepatitis C, one of the key barriers to eliminating the virus.”
Steve Brine MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee:
“Today I’m showing my support for World Hepatitis Day.
“I was proud that the hepatitis C ‘elimination deal’ was developed under my leadership when I was a Minister in the Department of Health and Social Care, which was launched along with a target to eliminate the virus as a major public health concern by 2025. It’s excellent to see the progress that has been made since the introduction of the initiatives developed as part of the deal, as rates of hepatitis C have consistently declined and we remain on track to hit the 2025 target.
“We now need to keep up momentum to ensure we make the most of all the progress that has been made so far. Finding the final cases of the virus will require a constant focus on testing people who have been at risk of infection – so I’m calling on anyone who may have been exposed through blood-to-blood contact or other risk factors to have a test. You can order a free, discreet, at-home test kit here: hepctest.nhs.uk.
“We also need to begin planning for the maintenance of hepatitis C elimination. Active measures must be in place to continue testing and treating new cases after elimination is achieved, to ensure we don’t slip backwards.”
Jenni Minto MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Public Health and Women’s Health:
“Today is World Hepatitis Day, and I’m proud that the Scottish Government remains committed to eliminating hepatitis C by early 2025.
“Hepatitis C is a preventable, treatable and curable blood-borne virus. However, if left unchecked it can cause liver disease including cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis C also disproportionately affects marginalised people and communities, so eliminating the virus as a major public health concern remains at the forefront of our efforts to combat health inequalities in Scotland.
“Thanks to the arrival of new treatments and the concerted efforts of services to get them to patients, we have made encouraging progress with the virus in recent years, with major reductions in hepatitis C prevalence and deaths. And we remain particularly proud that NHS Tayside led the world by meeting the World Health Organisation’s 2030 target for reducing prevalence of Hepatitis C 11 years early, something we continue to learn lessons from. This is a pivotal moment, with the potential for Scotland to be a world leader in hepatitis C elimination.
“However, there is still more to do and the pandemic inevitably affected our plans. This is why we will be updating our sexual health and blood-borne virus plan, including how we will continue to tackle Hepatitis C and other blood-borne viruses.
“Finally, I urge you to get tested for Hepatitis C if you think you might have been at risk, even if you feel well. This is because Hepatitis C often does not initially have any noticeable symptoms and so it is possible to have an infection without realising it. Taking a test following potential exposure to Hepatitis C can help put your mind at rest or, in the case of a positive result, allow treatment to be started quickly. You can read more about risk factors for hepatitis C and how to easily get a test by going to The Hepatitis C Trust’s website or by speaking to your GP or other healthcare professional.”
Douglas Ross MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party:
“July 28th 2023 is World Hepatitis Day and I am proud to call for a continued national effort in Scotland to eliminate hepatitis C in our country once and for all.
“When not found, hepatitis C can lead to fatal liver disease. But the virus is preventable, treatable and curable, with medications available on the NHS that cure it within 12 weeks. Scotland and the UK have both seen significant progress in finding and treating people with the virus, but there is still more to do.
“Many of the estimated 21,000 people in Scotland living with hepatitis C still need to be found and diagnosed, and while existing infections are being treated, new infections aren’t decreasing. This is why we need to see clear plans for continued awareness-raising, investment in data and rapid testing, and support for prevention services from the Scottish Government, so that Scotland’s 2024-25 elimination target will be reached.”
Anas Sarwar MSP, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party:
“This World Hepatitis Day, I am once again asking the Scottish Government to redouble its efforts so that the commitment to eliminating hepatitis C by 2024-25 does not go unfulfilled. With just one year left to meet the national elimination deadline – it is fitting that the theme for World Hepatitis Day this year is ‘Don’t miss the target.’
“Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus which can cause fatal damage to the liver if left untreated. With treatment, the World Health Organisation estimates that more than 95% of those with hepatitis C infection can be cured through treatment with antiviral medicine. However, the number of people being diagnosed and treated remains deficient. A huge factor driving infection and preventing detection is the residual stigma surrounding hepatitis C as a blood-borne virus – with campaigns such as World Hepatitis Day being so very crucial to the fight against this.
“But alongside a public awareness strategy, we need a concentrated effort from the Scottish Government to make testing more accessible, so that no case of hepatitis C in Scotland goes undetected and thereby untreated. We know that the virus disproportionately impacts some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. It’s for that reason that we need to see increased testing capacity in health and justice settings so that we can eliminate the spread of the virus – and ensure that we Don’t miss the target.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats:
“Today I’m calling on the Scottish Government not to miss our country’s target to eliminate hepatitis C by 2024-25, by redoubling efforts with a clear plan.
“Hepatitis C can be deadly, but it is also treatable. This is why it is vital that we have clear data on the number of people in Scotland still living with the virus and ensure they get the care they deserve.
“We also know that since around 90% of new hepatitis C infections result from sharing contaminated drug-taking equipment, continued investment in harm reduction measures such as needle and syringe exchange programmes will be crucial to ensuring that we can prevent the virus, as well as curing it when it arises. This will ensure that people don’t come to harm and that we save the NHS money in the long-run.
“For World Hepatitis Day 2023, our government must do more. They should commit to a wider awareness-raising campaign, continued investment in rapid testing, in treatment and in prevention. This next year is crucial within the final stretch of Scotland’s effort to eliminate the virus.”
Mark Drakeford MS/AS, First Minister of Wales, said:
“As we mark World Hepatitis Day 2023, I am pleased to recommit the Welsh Government’s support for eliminating hepatitis C.
“This year, we have taken steps to reinvigorate the elimination effort in Wales following the pandemic.
“In January, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales published a series of key actions towards elimination, and we have set up a hepatitis B and C elimination programme oversight group.
“Following the success of the Hepatitis C Trust’s peer-to-peer support programme in the Cardiff area, other parts of Wales are following. People with lived experience of hepatitis C are strong advocates to engage others at risk of the virus, deliver testing and support people through treatment.
“I would strongly urge anyone who is at risk to get tested so they can get the treatment they need.
“This work will put Wales in a strong position to push towards our ultimate goal of eliminating hepatitis C. I want to thank everyone involved for their ongoing hard work.”
Andrew RT Davies MS/AS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament:
“Today on World Hepatitis Day I want to offer my thanks to all those working towards the elimination of hepatitis C in Wales.
“It is clear that the pandemic had a real impact on hepatitis C services but also that the Welsh Government took too long to provide the national guidance that was needed to support those working on the ground. While progress has been made on this with the publication of a Health Circular on eliminating hepatitis B and C earlier this year, there are still questions regarding whether Health Boards will be able to appropriately resource the measures they are being directed to take.
“With very low hepatitis C testing and treatment rates during the pandemic, we now need to see an expansion of testing in primary care services and drug services. Faster roll-out of Point of Care testing is also crucial, with the rapid availability of results allowing people to be referred into treatment without delay.
“For anyone who thinks they may have been exposed at any time to blood-to-blood contact and be at risk of having contracted hepatitis C, contact your GP for a simple test. Treatment is now short, simple, easy-to-tolerate and highly effective.”
Rhun ap Iorwerth MS/AS, Leader of Plaid Cymru, said:
“Today is World Hepatitis Day, an important moment for us to renew and increase our efforts towards eliminating hepatitis C in Wales.
“There remains much to do to achieve elimination in Wales following years of under-prioritisation of hepatitis C by the Welsh Government, exacerbated by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. While it is welcome that the Welsh Government has recently set out requirements for Health Boards for tackling hepatitis B and C, the absence of additional funding is likely to act as a barrier to progressing as fast as we need to in order to achieve the Welsh Government’s 2030 elimination target.
“We also need to see more support for services that are crucial for preventing hepatitis C (as well as other blood-borne viruses), such as needle exchange services, to ensure we reduce the number of new infections and reinfections.
“With the right level of prioritisation, we can and will eliminate hepatitis C in Wales, and Plaid Cymru will continue to do all we can to support these efforts.”
Peter May, Permanent Secretary in the Northern Ireland Department of Health:
“Today marks World Hepatitis Day, an important moment to recognise the progress made so far and the work that remains to eliminate hepatitis C globally. In Northern Ireland, we are working towards our goal of eliminating hepatitis C by 2025 by combining treatment and care with prevention and case finding, as well as optimising harm-reduction services.
“Hepatitis C remains a serious condition that can lead to severe liver damage, sometimes years after the initial infection. However, treatments for the disease have improved rapidly in recent years and today a course of oral tablets can cure over 97% of cases. It is now vital to find and treat as many cases of the virus as possible.
“There has already been a 25% reduction in hepatitis C-related mortality in Northern Ireland since 2015. Northern Ireland’s Elimination Plan aims to ensure that hepatitis C is effectively eliminated by 2025, five years ahead of the World Health Organisation’s 2030 target. If you think you may have been at risk of infection, talk to a health professional about having a hepatitis C test.”
Linda Dillon MLA, Health Spokesperson for Sinn Fein:
“Today is World Hepatitis Day, and I’m calling for a renewed focus on the elimination of hepatitis C in Northern Ireland.
“The drugs to combat hepatitis C have improved significantly in recent years, with treatments now available that are highly effective and much more tolerable than they used to be. We now need to make sure we continue to find the cases of the virus that have not yet been found in Northern Ireland.
“It’s important that you come forward to get tested if you might have engaged in any behaviours commonly associated with hepatitis C transmission, or may have received a blood transfusion before the NHS started screening blood in the 1990s.”
Paul Givan MLA, Health Spokesperson for the Democratic Unionist Party:
“Today, on World Hepatitis Day, I’m calling for an increase in testing to find as many cases of hepatitis C as possible.
“Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that, if left untreated, can lead to fatal liver cancer. We have the treatments to tackle hepatitis C; the challenge now lies in making sure we find as many of the remaining cases of the virus as possible, as soon as possible.
“Northern Ireland is aiming to eliminate hepatitis C by 2025 – a goal I am pleased to support. One of the barriers to elimination is a misconception that treatment for the virus is difficult to tolerate, when in reality the treatment used to cure 95% of infections is now simply a course of oral tablets with very few side effects. You should speak to a health professional today about getting tested if you think there’s a chance you might have been exposed to the virus.”
Paula Bradshaw MLA, Health Spokesperson for the Alliance Party:
“I’m pleased to be supporting World Hepatitis Day today, recognising how far we have come in the fight against this virus.
“With that said, there’s plenty more still to do. While treatments have improved considerably, finding the remaining cohort of people living with hepatitis C in Northern Ireland is difficult, so I’m calling for everyone who thinks they could have been exposed to the virus to speak to a health professional about getting tested.
“We also need to ensure that harm reduction measures are in place to prevent new infections and reinfections of the virus, which will be vital to Northern Ireland’s plans to eliminate hepatitis C by 2025 and maintain elimination status thereafter.”