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Hep C and homelessness

May 24 2009
Rik Hodgson of the Scottish Hepatitis C Resource Centre writes on Hep C for The Pavement Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C is a viral form of this inflammation. It's a blood borne virus, which means you can only contract the disease by getting infected blood into your bloodstream. It can be passed on sexually but only if blood is present. The commonest route of infection is through the sharing of any injecting equipment, needles, syringes, spoons, filters, tourniquets, burners, or through putting your equipment down on contaminated surfaces. This is because Hepatitis C is a tough virus which can live outside the body for some time - perhaps 24 hours, or even longer. Other possible risky activities include sharing toiletries, such as razors, toothbrushes, hair and nail clippers; sharing other drug-taking kit such as crack pipes and snorters, and through unsterile or unlicensed body art. If you have ever put yourself at risk, particularly through sharing injecting equipment, then go and get tested. Hepatitis C is often asymptomatic, so it's not always obvious that you have it. However, the commonest symptoms are chronic tiredness, memory and concentration issues, insomnia, night sweats and joint pains. Many people who have it don't know about it. The good news is that Hepatitis C is curable: 20 per cent clear the virus naturally without the need for treatment. It can also be treated, with treatment being 40-90 per cent effective. Although treatment has a bad reputation on the streets, everyone reacts to the it differently and some people do not suffer side effects at all. There is lots of information out there on minimising the side effects of treatment, and you can speak to your consultant or nurse if you are experiencing side effects. A few simple lifestyle adjustments, such as not drinking alcohol, eating a balanced and healthy diet as well as milk thistle supplements, taking exercise, and drinking plenty of water, mean you can Advertisement, May 2009 / 9 live with this virus relatively well. There is no vaccine for Hep C, but get vaccinated for Hepatitis A & B. There is also no immunity, so you can get Hepatitis C, clear it through treatment or naturally then get it again. If left undiagnosed and untreated Hepatitis C can lead to chronic cirrhosis of the liver, irreversible liver failure, or liver cancer. It can result in early death. Hepatitis C is a health inequality issue, as it disproportionately affects people living in poverty and deprivation.