July 28 is the annual World Hepatitis Day. It’s about bringing awareness to Hepatitis, encourage testing and supporting those undergoing treatment.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and is usually caused by a virus. The most common viruses are Hepatitis A, B and C. The liver is important because it has over 500 functions in our body including helping us to digest food, and aids us in taking medication into our body. Needless to say, it’s pretty important to helping us stay healthy.
The Three Common Types
- Hepatitis A is spread through fecal matter (poop). Usually through contaminated water systems or from someone not washing their hands properly and then preparing food.
- Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood or sex fluids
Often the body can fight off an infection of A or B on it’s own. There is also a vaccine available to prevent both of these infections.
- Hepatitis C does not have a vaccine. It is transmitted through sharing blood. This includes risks such as sharing needles, but also things like sharing personal health hygiene items including toothbrushes, shaving tools, and nail clippers.
Treatment for Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C medication has gotten pretty good and can cure the infection. For people who don’t take the medications or if the medications didn’t work, they might become really sick and develop scarring on their liver or develop liver cancer. In Canada, Hep C is the number one reason for liver transplant. The treatment can last 8, 12 or 24 weeks depending on the type prescribed. The medication that someone would take to treat Hepatitis C can be expensive and cause a variety of side effects, which can make it hard to take them.
Testing and Staying Safer
The test for Hepatitis C is a blood test. This can be done as part of an STI/HIV test at any Teen Clinic or health centre.
There are ways to stay safer, here are some tips:
Remember when it comes to substance use its not just new needles—use new cookers, filters, ties, acidifiers, swabs and water every time as well. If snorting drugs use your own straw or bill and don’t share it with others. You can get new gear from the Street Connections van
Use new supplies for piercings and body modifications every time.
Tattooing is safest in a professional studio with a sterilizer, sterile equipment, new needles and new ink. If you’re in prison or doing it yourself, have your own tattoo gun (and ink) and don’t share.
Have your own razors, toothbrushes and anything else that might get blood on it.
Use a condom or sex dam for sex every time to be extra safe.
Blood infected with hep C can live outside the body for up to 6 weeks. Cover all wounds/sores.
Get tested! If you test positive consider taking treatment medication, reducing alcohol and other substances.