Hepatitis C is a bloodborne virus that can cause life-threatening liver disease and cancer. However, those infected often have no symptoms until many years later, when their liver is badly damaged. Also, when symptoms do occur, they can often be non-specific, such as tiredness or loss of appetite, so can be dismissed. Early detection and treatment can also reduce the risk of passing the virus onto others.
Hep C is spread through blood-to-blood contact, most commonly by sharing needles, syringes, or other non-sterile injecting equipment. Other people at risk of acquiring the infection are those who have been in prison and who have experienced homelessness. In 2022, 62,600 people were estimated to be living with Hep C, of them 20.1% were people who were currently or had recently injected drugs, and 64.5% were those who had previously injected drugs but were no longer injecting.
We are urging homelessness services to support people at risk of acquiring Hep C to order a free test, to help identify more cases of Hep C and start people on treatment sooner.