It's estimated more than 1000 people in Taranaki are living with hepatitis C; however, due to symptoms often not appearing for many years, half of them may be unaware they have it.
Taranaki DHB is raising awareness for this year's World Hepatitis Day by offering free hep C testing to find, test, treat and cure these people.
World Hepatitis Day is on July 28 every year. This year's theme is Hepatitis Can't Wait, with a person dying every 30 seconds from a hepatitis-related illness worldwide.
Dr Nadja Gottfert says free pop-up hep C testing clinics are being set up nationwide to make it quick and easy for at-risk Kiwis to get tested for the virus, and Taranaki is joining the drive.
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"Pop-up clinics are one way we can work towards eliminating the hep C virus from the Taranaki community. Around 45,000 New Zealanders have hepatitis C, but many don't know as the symptoms can be subtle like tiredness, joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain."
Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood-to-blood activities that pierce the skin. People are at increased risk if they have: injected drugs, received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment, had a blood transfusion before 1992, lived or received medical treatment in a high-risk country, been in prison, been born to a mother living with hepatitis C, had jaundice, or an abnormal liver test.
Nadja says: "The most common way of getting hepatitis C is through activities related to intravenous drug use. So if you have ever injected, even if it was only once back in the day, you should get tested."
"Hep C is serious. It can lead to liver disease and/or cancer, and if left untreated it can be deadly. But with new, better and easier treatment hep C can be cured. It doesn't matter how you got hep C, what's important is getting cured so you can get on with your life."
Pharmac funds a hep C treatment called Maviret, which has the potential to cure more than 98 per cent of cases in 8 to 12 weeks.
"The biggest challenge now is finding those people who don't know they have the virus so we can treat them. The only way to know if you have hep C is to get tested, so we encourage people to contact their GP or come along to one of our free pop-up clinics."
Details of the free pop-up clinics happening in Taranaki:
Taranaki Base Hospital, Monday, July 26, 9am-3pm
Hāwera Hospital, Monday, July 26, 9am-3pm
Needle Exchange, 25 Eliot St, New Plymouth, Wednesday, July 28, 10am-3pm