Are You Number 12?
Are You Number 12?
New Zealand Needle Exchange media release, 9 September 2012
One in 12 people worldwide has viral hepatitis, and you could easily be next, warns New Zealand Needle Exchange National Manager Charles Henderson as the 8th Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference gets underway in Auckland this week.
“Currently, around 50,000 New Zealanders carry the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and many are unaware they have it,” Mr Henderson said.
“Fifteen hundred new HCV cases occur in New Zealand every year, and anyone can become a victim, not just drug users or those who practice rough, risky sex, as many would assume. Anyone who comes in contact with blood is potentially at risk, and that could happen anywhere, whether during sport, or at an accident, or just as part of day-to-day life.”
HCV deteriorates the liver, affecting its ability to remove metabolites from the blood system which seriously affects an individual’s quality of life and can lead to early death. It can remain active in blood outside the body for up to three months and is 100 times more infectious than HIV. There is no immunisation or cure.
The World Hepatitis Alliance has launched a new campaign called “Am I number 12?” which aims to raise public and clinical awareness of the dangers of the dangers of hepatitis C, boost early diagnosis rates and encourage widespread prevention programmes.
The disease can lie dormant in an infected person for years, so Mr Henderson says it’s vital we find those who are unaware they are affected as soon as possible.
“The spread of HCV is easily preventable, but if people don't know they have the disease they are less likely to take the proper precautions to stop them from infecting others.
“Unfortunately, however, there’s a stigma around the disease. People associate it with illicit drug use, so they’re either reluctant to seek help if they think they may have it, or they think it can't affect them because they don't take drugs.
“The fact is HCV affects the whole population and people need to question themselves (rather than stigmatise others) and get tested if they think they could be at risk.”
Mr Henderson hopes the “Am I number 12?” campaign will stimulate health and treatment organisations to focus more on prevention to reduce the incidence of HCV among injecting drug users and other groups to help reduce its spread into the general population, something he says needs to be re-emphasised and targeted by present funders and planners.
"Am I Number 12?" Campaign: http://worldhepatitisalliance.org/WorldHepatitisDay/CampaignMaterials/Number_12_Campaign.aspx