Risk of hepatitis C in
South Asian communities
Around 1 in 50 people from South Asian communities living in the UK are at risk of hepatitis C.
Why am I at risk?
Approximately 10 million people in South Asia are living with hepatitis C. The World Health Organization classifies this as a high-risk area; that means you have a higher chance of contracting the virus if you visit or live in that area.
Hepatitis C is passed on via blood-to-blood contact. This means that blood infected with hepatitis C must get into the bloodstream of an uninfected person to be passed on. In high-risk areas, including South Asia, you can come into contact with infected blood more easily than you might think.
If you have spent time in South Asia, including countries such as India, Bangladesh or Pakistan at any time in your life – as a child or an adult, as a resident or a regular visitor – it is good to know what can put you at risk and to make sure you get tested for hepatitis C.
Medical procedures abroad
You may have put yourself at risk if you have travelled to South Asia for treatment or accessed healthcare – including beauty treatments – whilst you were there. If the equipment used in a procedure has not been sterilised properly, there could be a risk of contracting hepatitis C.
While visiting Pakistan, a doctor gave me an injection to ease a fever. I did not know the needle had been used on another patient. More than 20 years later, I was diagnosed with hepatitis C.
Many people travel abroad to have treatments such as:
- Kidney dialysis
- Dental implants or surgery
- Therapeutic injections
- Blood transfusion/ blood donation
- Head shaving on Hajj and Umra
- Botox, fillers
- Piercings (including nose and ears with a sewing needle)
- Permanent make-up (eyeliner, eyebrows and lip liner)
- Steroid injections
- Wet cupping/ blood letting
If you have had a medical, dental or beauty procedure abroad or think it could be possible that you received medical treatment or a vaccination as a baby in South Asia, it is a good idea to get tested for hepatitis C.
Outside of medical settings, there are a number of other ways to contract hepatitis C. Please read our Risks and causes page to find out more.
Why should I get tested for hepatitis C?
It can take a very long time for hepatitis C symptoms to develop. In fact, around half of people living with hepatitis C do not know that they have the virus. But this does not mean that the virus is not causing damage to your liver. Leaving hepatitis C untreated can lead to liver disease and cancer.
Research suggests that people from South Asian communities are up to 9 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with hepatitis C-related end-stage liver disease than the general population in the UK.
This can be avoided if people are tested and treated early because hepatitis C is curable.
The sooner you are tested for hepatitis C, the sooner you can start your treatment.
Drug treatment for hepatitis C involves taking tablets daily, typically for between 8 to 12 weeks.
Watch the video below to find out more about why it is so important for South Asian communities to understand, prevent and get tested for hepatitis C.