The HSE’s National Hepatitis C Treatment programme has launched offering a free Hepatitis C online service – www.hse.ie/hepc – which provides people with the option to test for Hepatitis C.
The free Hepatitis C home test will allow people to order a Hepatitis C test online and carry out the finger prick test at home. Adults can order a free Hepatitis C test from hse.ie/hepc, which will be delivered to their home by post. Users complete the tests at home and post the sample to the laboratory in a pre-paid envelope provided.
Individuals receive their results by text or phone. Those who require follow on treatment will be referred to participating clinics or hospitals. Treatment for Hepatitis C is free, tablets are effective and well-tolerated, with over 95% of people cured in as little as 8 to 12 weeks. The new home testing service could help people unknowingly living with Hepatitis C to get a life-saving diagnosis and treatment sooner.
Professor Aiden McCormick, HSE Clinical Lead for the Hepatitis C Programme, said: “One of our biggest challenges in getting people tested for Hepatitis C is that people can live without symptoms or feeling sick. This means a lot of people living with the virus don’t realise they have it. We’re calling on people to order this quick finger-prick test to find out whether you’ve been exposed to Hepatitis C – it could save your life.
People who should get tested for Hepatitis C if you:
- have ever shared needles or equipment to inject any type of drug, even if you’ve only injected once
- have ever shared equipment to snort or sniff drugs
- have ever been in prison
- have a tattoo, especially if you got it a long time ago or in a non-professional setting or in a prison
- are from a country where Hepatitis C is common
- have ever received blood or blood products in another country where blood donations are not tested
- have ever had medical or dental treatment in a country where Hepatitis C is common and infection control is poor
- were born to a mother who had Hepatitis C at the time of your birth
- are a man who takes part in chemsex or has condomless, rough or extreme sex with men
- are a man who has sex with men and you have HIV
- have lived with someone with Hepatitis C and there is a chance they may have passed it on
- received an organ transplant in Ireland before 1992
- had sexual contact with an injecting drug user.
“If you have ever shared a needle including piercings, tattoos or injected drugs using needles, you could be at risk. Hepatitis C can be a fatal disease but it is a curable disease.
“Treatment for Hepatitis C takes between 8 to 12 weeks and is a course of tablets that have hardly any side effects. These tablets are highly effective at clearing the infection in more than 95% of people.”
The National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme estimates that up to 3,000 people in Ireland may currently have the blood-borne virus, which infects the liver and if left untreated can cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage, leading to cirrhosis, possible liver failure and cancer – as well as a risk of spreading the disease to others.
Marie O’Grady, Programme Lead, HSE National Hepatitis C Programme, said: “This pilot marks a significant step forward in our fight to eliminate chronic Hepatitis C by 2030 by providing free Hepatitis C home tests for people who think they could be at risk from the virus.With highly effective treatments available through the HSE, there is no reason for anyone to be living with the ill effects of Hepatitis C. We need to urgently find those still living with an undiagnosed infection and support them to access treatment.
“So far the National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme has treated over 7,000 people, 95% of whom are now cured. For patients who cannot easily access hospital clinics the program can arrange treatment through GP services if required.
“I strongly urge anyone at risk of Hepatitis C to order your test on www.hse.ie/hepc today even if you don’t have any symptoms.”