Message from the Minister of Health: World Hepatitis Day, July 28, 2017


July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, a day to encourage awareness and better understanding of viral hepatitis in Canada and around the world.

It is estimated that one in 12 people worldwide are affected by viral hepatitis, and that more than 245,000 Canadians are living with chronic hepatitis C. In some people, this viral infection may result in severe liver damage. As symptoms may not be seen for many years, many people are unaware of their infection. Early detection is essential for treatment and prevention of liver damage. Canadians who may be at higher risk of hepatitis C infection should get tested and know their status.

Canadians at a greater risk for contracting hepatitis C, include those who:

  • have lived in a region where the disease is common;
  • have received a tattoo or piercing with non-sterile equipment;
  • have shared injection drug equipment;
  • were born to a mother with hepatitis C; or
  • have received medical care where non-sterile equipment may have been used.

Most people can be cured with new treatments for hepatitis C, letting them live longer and healthier lives. Recently, the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, which works on behalf of the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories, successfully negotiated lower prices on hepatitis C medications for public drug plans. These lower prices mean increased access for more people.

Health Canada is working with First Nations communities and organizations to build awareness and facilitate access to sexually transmitted and blood borne infections treatment, including hepatitis B and C. To further strengthen its support to eligible First Nations and Inuit peoples, the Government has added new medications and expanded coverage criteria for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C through the Non-Insured Health Benefits.

Correctional Service Canada (CSC) has made great strides in detecting, preventing and treating hepatitis C. The vast majority of inmates participate in hepatitis C screening, which is offered to all on admission, and also available throughout their incarceration. All inmates with hepatitis are eligible for treatment with the newest drugs available. CSC's management of hepatitis C has resulted in a major decline in prevalence, from a high of about 30% in 2007 to about 10% today.

Our Government continues to work with provinces, territories and stakeholders to address viral hepatitis through programs that focus on research, surveillance, prevention, public health guidance, awareness and community-based responses.

Although there is a vaccine for hepatitis B, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. And while hepatitis C is curable with medical treatment, the treatment does not prevent re-infection. If you think you are at risk for hepatitis C, I encourage you to talk to your doctor or nurse about prevention, testing, and treatment.

Today, as we mark World Hepatitis Day, I am pleased to recognize the progress we have made, and I look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with our partners with the goal of eliminating viral hepatitis in this country by 2030.

The Honourable Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P.

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