World Hepatitis Day celebrated Friday in Courtenay

The Courtenay event this Friday happens on the courthouse lawn at Sixth Street and England Avenue from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI) will join the World Hepatitis Alliance and community groups around the world to raise public awareness about viral hepatitis by commemorating World Hepatitis Day on July 28.

The group is planning to host lunchtime awareness raising events in Campbell River (July 25) Courtenay (July 26) and Victoria (July 27).  Event details can be found at http://avi.org/whd13.

The Courtenay event this Friday happens on the courthouse lawn at Sixth Street and England Avenue from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Globally, approximately 500 million people — one in 12 worldwide — are infected with chronic viral hepatitis B (350 million persons) or hepatitis C (130-170 million persons).

In Canada, an estimated 550,000 people have chronic hepatitis B or C, with many unaware of their status. While treatment is available for hepatitis B & C, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

“Getting tested and knowing your hepatitis C status is crucial to reversing the hep C epidemic on the island” says Katrina Jensen, executive director at AIDS Vancouver Island. “We’re looking forward to hosting a number of events this July to raise awareness about testing, treatment and being informed about how to prevent and stay healthy when you’re living with hepatitis C, HIV and other blood-borne illnesses.”

Recently, rates of new hepatitis C infections have been on the decline in British Columbia with 43.1 new infections per 100,000 people in the population. While testing has increased, BC still has higher rates than the national average (29.6/100,000 people) when it comes to new hepatitis C infections.

On Vancouver Island, rates of new infections[1] are as follows:

• On the North Island, 52.7/100,000 new hep C infections occurred in 2011.

• On the Central Island, 54.5/100,000 new hep C infections occurred in 2011.

• On the South Island, 35.5/100,000 new hep C infections occurred in 2011.

“Similar to HIV, there are about one-quarter of people who are infected with hepatitis C but don’t know they’re infected, so it’s important to know your status and your treatment options early,” says Jensen.

AVI events across the island will feature opportunities for testing, information about treatment and an opportunity to connect with support workers.

AVI has also launched a public awareness video on their social media channels called Who Cares About Hep C? encouraging people from all walks of life to get tested. The video features Victoria poet laureate Janet Rogers, Mayor  Dean Fortin of Victoria and others.

— AIDS Vancouver Island

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