DDN Sept_2022 September 2022 | Page 10





With huge strides being made towards finally eradicating hep C it was vital that we kept up the momentum , heard delegates at LJWG ’ s Three years to go to elimination conference

‘ now have three years to achieve our shared goal of elimination of hepatitis C as a public health issue in London ,’ London Joint Working Group ( LJWG ) co-chair Dr Suman Verma told LJWG ’ s 2022 conference . Despite the challenges of COVID , there had been ‘ incredible perseverance , partnership working and innovation ’ during this time , she said .

‘ I felt shock and fear , because there ’ s such a lot of stigma around hepatitis C ,’ said Rory O ’ Donnell , who was recently diagnosed through a blood spot test at a drug service . ‘ I wasn ’ t aware that I was at risk , even though I ’ d injected . And I never realised that it could be cured .’
He ’ d started treatment of one-tablet per day , but found he ’ d cleared the virus after just one month of the three-month treatment period and was now planning to work as a peer mentor .
LIVED EXPERIENCE People with lived experience were vital in persuading others to come forward , he stressed . ‘ People would probably be a little bit more open knowing someone has used out there and contracted the virus , rather than someone who hasn ’ t . There ’ s a lot of fear attached to it , and a lot of people putting their heads in the sand .’
‘ We ’ ve been through this terrible pandemic and when it started people said it would be a great leveller – but as ever , of course it was not ,’ said senior advisor the mayor of London on health policy , Dr Tom Coffey . The fact that the poorest Londoners were most likely to get – and die from – COVID mirrored the situation with hep C . ‘ A treatable condition , but again it affects the poorest – people in prison , people who are drug users , the homeless . But what gives me hope is our work with HIV ,’ with very ambitious targets being met , he said . ‘ What we ’ ve done with HIV , we can do with hep C . So it ’ s really important that we do outreach work to identify people like Rory who are unaware they have the virus .’
PACE OF CHANGE The pace of change had been extraordinary , and the headline was that fewer people were dying or getting cancer from hep C , said NHS England ’ s hepatitis C clinical lead , Professor Graham Foster . ‘ Four or five years ago when I said
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