Hepatitis Support and Treatment Program:
Offering diagnosis assistance, disease status assessment, mobile clinics, support and treatment of persons with Hepatitis C Living in Southwestern Ontario.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C (HCV) is an infection caused by the hepatitis C. virus, which is carried in the blood. This virus can cause liver disease, including cirrhosis and cancer. More than 110,000 people in Ontario are infected with the hepatitis C virus. Often there are no symptoms for many years, and about 35,000 Ontarians do not even realize they are infected.
How do people get hepatitis C infection?
Hepatitis C is spread by contact with the blood of an infected person. People have become infected with hepatitis C virus by:
- Living with someone who was infected with hepatitis C virus and sharing personal items such as razors, toothbrushes, tweezers, manicure or pedicure equipment. (ie. Nail clippers)
- Sharing needles, drug equipment, straws, bills or other paraphernalia for snorting cocaine or other drugs
- Tattooing, piercing or acupuncture equipment that may have been improperly sterilized
- Receiving blood, blood products, or solid organs from a donor whose blood contained hepatitis C virus
- Being on long-term kidney dialysis
- Having frequent occupational contact with blood in a health-care setting, especially accidental needle sticks
- Being born to a mother with hepatitis C
- Having sex with a person infected with hepatitis C virus which includes contact with blood or exchange of blood.
Do I need treatment?
There are several tests and evaluations that must occur to evaluate the need for treatment. One of the first test that must be completed is one that checks for the virus, the viral count, the viruses genotype and evidence of chronicity of disease (>6 months). Other evaluations include; other blood tests (chemistries, liver enzymes, blood counts etc), a physical examination, medical history, social assessment, abdominal ultrasound and other tests as needed.
Direct support is a key component of this program, as support is provided throughout all phases of HCV treatment. One on one counseling and education is provided with a registered nurse. There is one central clinic but other clinics are held at other locations in the Windsor-Essex area. An addiction counselor and laboratory testing is available at the main site. Bi-weekly blood tests are required during treatment as are monthly appointments with the RPN. Patients also have phone access to the RPN in order to address any urgent concerns that may arise. Assistance is also provided in order to ensure that there is no financial burden due to medication costs.