Hepatitis C Support Team – Empowering People, Eliminating Hep C
Our Hepatitis C Support Team work across the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, helping people affected by hepatitis C get tested and treated.
Funded by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, our Hepatitis C Support Team is made up of Wendy, Stephen and Christine. Together, the team makes sure anyone at risk of hepatitis C can get tested, while helping anyone already diagnosed with the virus through treatment and beyond.
Hepatitis C in Scotland
Across Scotland, there are an estimated 21,000 people living with chronic hepatitis C. As many as 10,500 (50%) of those have never been diagnosed – meaning they can’t access treatments to cure the virus. That means making testing accessible is an essential part of eliminating hepatitis C in Scotland.
With new highly effective treatments available, hepatitis C can be cleared in 8-12 weeks and, in 2018 alone, 2,600 people started hepatitis C treatment. However, despite the increase in those treated for the virus, there were 1,423 new cases of hepatitis C diagnosed in Scotland in 2018.
What does hepatitis C in Glasgow look like?
Greater Glasgow and Clyde continues to have the highest rate of new hepatitis C cases in Scotland. In 2018, 32% of new hepatitis C infections were in Glasgow, followed by 17% of new infections in Lothian. However, while Glasgow sees the highest rate of new hepatitis C cases, it also has the highest rate of people starting treatment to cure the virus. Of the 2,600 people who started treatment in 2018, 46% took place in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Our Hepatitis C Support Team is part of the cities ongoing work to eliminate hepatitis C, with the team's work broadly focussed on testing, treatment, and support.
“For me, it’s all about the people we work with and getting the opportunity to help a really stigmatised group of folk make some kind of change in their life. That’s what makes it all worthwhile. Helping folk who’ve had a hard life see their own potential and what life can be.” - Wendy, Hep C Team
Making testing local
A big part of the team's work is making testing local. Wendy, Stephen, and Christine regularly visit lots of different services across Glasgow to carry out hepatitis C testing. The services they go to provide support with issues such as addiction, mental health, housing, and homelessness services. That means hepatitis C is not the main focus of the services the team visits. However, by going to services and carrying out testing in different localities across the city, the team make testing accessible in places that might otherwise need to refer people who have been at risk to get tested elsewhere. It also means that people who are using local services, are able to get tested easily in their locality – and are connected with support from the time they get tested through treatment if needed. Last year alone, the team held 86 education and testing sessions in services across Glasgow, carrying out 248 hepatitis C tests.
“It’s great that yous are out doing the testing, it feels like a big weights been lifted now I’ve had the test and know my status.” - Darren, 32
Making treatment possible
Hepatitis C is curable and the Hepatitis C Support Team help people living with the virus to get through treatment. Living with hepatitis C can have a significant impact on a person's health and wellbeing, with symptoms including low mood, memory loss, muscle, and joint aches/pains. Often people affected by hepatitis C are also experiencing lots of other challenges in life – from poverty, poor mental health and trauma to isolation, housing issues, and homelessness.
According to the latest Hepatitis C surveillance report, 50% of people diagnosed with hepatitis C in Scotland are living in the most deprived areas. When people are living in a deprived area, they are more likely to experience multiple social and health inequalities. In other words, they are more likely to have poor health and wellbeing. Our Hepatitis C Support Team see this reflected in their day to day work, as often people they support are living in areas of high deprivation while experiencing complex issues in life. This means getting to and through treatment for hepatitis C is a big challenge, when people have lots of other things to think about.
“When you meet folk for the first time, they come in feeling anxious and might feel embarrassment, shame, guild or whatever it may be. Then when you’ve supported them for a while, you start to notice they’re actually looking you in the eye, they’re more comfortable, relaxed. And it’s amazing to see that smile on someone’s face when they’ve cleared hep C after treatment. Aye they might need a wee bit of help to get there but they can be proud of it because it’s something they’ve achieved.” - Wendy, Hep C Team
By providing people affected by hepatitis C with dedicated one to one support, the team empowers people to become treatment ready, while connecting them to any other services that can support them in overcoming life’s challenges.
“I always wanted to be able to run my own house. I never learned how to do these things and now I feel that I can. At one time I couldn’t even make a phone call on my own but I can do all these things now. Life is still a challenge but I’m doing much better now.” - Jamie, 43
When someone is ready for hepatitis C treatment, Wendy, Stephen and Christine refer them to treatment centres across the city, support them along to their appointments, explain what’s involved in treatment and support them to put strategies in place that make treatment manageable.
“Waverley Care has always been there for me, without them I don’t know how I would have coped on my own. I would never have got through treatment the first time never mind having a go a second time. I would have just given up and not bothered with treatment.” - Louise, 39
The team’s work continues to be challenging, but with the team’s dedication and focus, we will continue working alongside our NHS partners and others to make testing, treatment, and support for hepatitis C available across Glasgow while smashing hepatitis C stigma.
Thank you to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, whose funding makes our work possible.