Far left : Véronique Walsh , general manager , Gilead Sciences UK & Ireland . Left : Hep C Trust Peer , image courtesy of The Hepatitis C Trust .
of the health and social care charity Change Grow Live , said : ‘ Thanks to the efforts of DTS providers and partners across the health system , we have made great progress towards our goal of ensuring a better quality of life for our clients . It is vital that we continue to work together to reduce incidence of HCV , increase testing and ensure that more patients can access the hep C services they need .’
In London recently , around 150 people gathered – with hundreds more joining online – to re-energise the drive to HCV elimination across DTS , under the banner : The Time to Act is Now . The event , organised by Gilead , was the culmination of years of successful partnership , determining how to deliver elimination in DTS in 2023 .
Bringing together clinicians , drug and addiction service providers , patient advocacy groups and public health experts among others , the event was designed to help share best practice , discuss challenges and identify solutions to providing the best care in DTS . By integrating representatives from all parts of the system , it underlined how crucial working together is to the pursuit of this ambition .
Rachel Halford , CEO of the Hepatitis C Trust , said : ‘ For so many years , there was an urgent unmet need for effective treatments for hepatitis C . But thanks to medical innovation , we now have not just a cure , but an opportunity to eliminate this devastating virus as a public health issue . We cannot let
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that opportunity slip , and we will only succeed if we work together . That ’ s why events like this are so important – enabling people from all parts of the health system to meet , collaborate and agree joint approaches to finding , diagnosing and treating more patients and ultimately achieving our goal of elimination .’
CHALLENGES TO ELIMINATION There remain significant hurdles to overcome before elimination can become a reality . Because HCV often displays no visible symptoms until it has already done significant damage to the liver , many patients are simply unaware of their illness : an estimated 50 per cent of people living with HCV do not know that they have the virus . 8
Due to the patient population , testing in itself is a challenge , and a significant number of people with active HCV infection may not engage with testing services . In addition , a person can be reinfected with HCV – and the challenges around needle sharing of drug users means this is an ongoing concern . And despite positive progress in recent years , there remain concerns that rates of new infections and reinfections could outstrip efforts to prevent transmission . 1
There is also the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to consider . Since March 2020 , all parts of the system have worked tirelessly together to maintain HCV treatment services and continue finding patients for testing , but
social distancing measures and the wider disruption to health services have posed a significant hurdle . 1
ACHIEVING ELIMINATION In its latest status report on progress towards HCV elimination , UKHSA said : ‘ If elimination is to be achieved and sustained , efforts and investment in prevention , testing and treatment will need to be redoubled to ensure that the ground lost during the COVID-19 pandemic is made up .’ 1
This type of joined-up approach has already been key to microelimination success . Strong partnerships , close working across all pathway stakeholders , dedicated ‘ site stars ’ who champion the elimination goal at a regional level , and targeted HCV testing events have been crucial to achieving microelimination in DTS in Thurrock , West Kent , Reading and Bromley . 9
Véronique Walsh , general manager , Gilead UK and Ireland , said : ‘ Effective joint working is crucial to our chances of eliminating HCV in the England . Achieving micro-elimination across a number of sites in partnership with other organisations has provided a roadmap for how elimination can be achieved – but it is not done and we need to continue our efforts , and push together so that every patient with HCV can access testing and rapid treatment , supporting our shared goal of elimination .’
If you would like to find out more about hepatitis C , including ongoing practices to support elimination , visit http :// hepctrust . org . uk /
This article has been developed and funded by Gilead Sciences . UK-UNB-2419 DoP : July 2022
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