Raising Awareness about Hepatitis on World Hepatitis C Day
World Hepatitis C Day is observed on July 28 of each year. Patient-led and health organization initiatives around the world are helping to raise awareness of chronic viral hepatitis. Governments, global institutions, health organizations and the general public are becoming more aware of the Hepatitis virus, the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the world.
Interestingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) marked its first-ever World Hepatitis Day, recognizing that nearly one of every three people in the world are affected by the Hepatitis disease. Each year 1.4 million cases of Hepatitis A occur and currently, two billion people are infected with a Hepatitis virus, and at least 130 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis C.
For the third consecutive year, the Canadian Society for International Health (CSIH) is taking the lead in coordinating World Hepatitis Day activities across Canada. CSIH has created a micro-site of resources on Hepatitis to raise public awareness about Hepatitis. This highlights the importance of universal Hepatitis vaccination. Community health representatives (CHRs), especially in the North where access to health services can be more limited, play an important role in reducing stigmas, informing communities of various health precautions, testing/treatments and providing resources to educate parents, youth, educators and health providers.
In 2009, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada partnered with Louisa, an Inuk woman living with HIV, to create a documentary about her life story. This video was shared with Inuit youth in order to create greater awareness in the North of this rarely-discussed disease.
Hepatitis is a virus that affects the liver. There is a vaccine available in Canada to help prevent Hepatitis A and B; currently there is no vaccine for the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) which is spread through blood to blood contact. The National Aboriginal Health Organization has a variety of materials and information on Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C can be transmitted through shared needles, shared personal items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person, and by having unprotected sex with an infected person. Hepatitis C virus more frequently stays in the body for longer than six months, and therefore becomes chronic. Four out of five people with hepatitis C develop a chronic infection which may cause cirrhosis and liver cancer after 15-30 years.
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