Speaking in yesterday's Assembly debate North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood said elimination of hepatitis C as a serious public health concern in Wales is a "wholly achievable goal" and called on the Welsh Government to confirm its commitment to wiping it out.
Hepatitis C is one of the three main causes of liver disease and the only one of the five ‘big killers’ in Wales and England where deaths are rising, and therefore represents a significant public health challenge.
In Wales An estimated 12,000 – 14,000 people are currently living with hepatitis C, around half undiagnosed.
In the debate, the Welsh Government was asked to confirm its commitment to the World Health Organisation Eradication Date of 2030 – and to consider new operational guidelines to support NHS Wales to work towards this.
Speaking in the Chamber, Mr Isherwood (pictured) said: “As I said in January’s debate on the contamination of blood, in the 1970s and 1980s, a large proportion of blood products supplied to patients by the NHS was contaminated with HIV or hepatitis C. Around 4,670 patients with haemophilia were infected; over 2,000 have since died in the UK, with 70 in Wales, from the effects of these viruses.
“However, evidentially Hepatitis C primarily affects people from particular groups, such as injecting drug users, homeless people, gay and bisexual men, and migrant populations from high prevalence regions.
“A recent Hepatitis C Trust report concludes with a number of key recommendations for action, including the inclusion of a commitment to eliminate hepatitis C as a serious public health concern within the Welsh Government’s forthcoming Public Health Bill.
“Approval of new drug treatments by NICE and the All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group means the elimination of hepatitis C as a serious public health concern in Wales is now a wholly achievable goal.
"To seize this new opportunity, we must find the 50% of people currently undiagnosed, by widening access to testing and further investigating which groups can be cost-effectively screened. By increasing diagnoses, we will be able to treat and cure more people.
“With effective and accessible new treatments now available to all who need them, it is easier than ever to treat and cure patients, presenting a great opportunity to achieve the elimination of hepatitis C in Wales.”