Hepatitis C: Increasing Awareness and Improving Access to Testing for the South Asian Community in Bedford


2010 by Opal Greyson for the Department of Health (winner of the Mary Seacole Development Award 2010)
In the United Kingdom (UK), the majority of individuals infected with Hepatitis C are past or present injecting drug users. However, there is a higher than average HCV prevalence among the South Asian community compared with the general population in the UK. For instance, the Pakistani community has been noted as having a greater than 2% prevalence of HCV, despite the majority of them never having injected drugs. This presents a serious public health challenge as ethnic minorities are known to access health services quite late in the course of their illness compared to the general population. Therefore, they are less likely to be diagnosed and treated for HCV before advanced liver disease or premature death occurs. This is a concern for Bedford, where there are approximately 13,500 South Asians. It is thus urgent that awareness about the disease is increased, that those iindividuals that may be infected with HCV are identified through health education, opportunistic case finding and voluntary testing after appropriate counselling in order to offer appropriate treatment. This project, which was targeted at the South Asian Community in Bedford, aimed to increase awareness of HCV, improve access to HCV testing, and assess the prevalence of the HCV antibody by testing individuals to determine exposure to the virus.
East of England