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HomeNewsAIDS Committee North Bay to provide Hep C testing

AIDS Committee North Bay to provide Hep C testing

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The AIDS Committee of North Bay and Area (ACNBA) can provide point-of-care testing for Hepatitis C just in time for World Hepatitis Day.

Throughout the past week, the ACNBA has been keeping its Facebook page up to date with testimonials from those who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis, along with other educational content. Keri McGuire-Trahan, a Nurse Practitioner for the ACNBA, is hoping to stress a simple message about Hepatitis C.

“There are, unfortunately, millions of people in the world who do not know that they have Hep C. It’s sad because it’s something that we can cure. It’s an easy cure, it’s readily available to all people who live in Ontario and Canada. It is covered by provincial insurance policies,” McGuire-Trahan explains.

The ACNBA will be holding free Hepatitis C testing at the Pharmasave on Lakeshore Dr. from 2 pm until 5 pm on Monday. It is the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that the ACNBA has been able to provide free testing to people.

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McGuire-Trahan says that testing involves getting a small blood sample, with results coming in after 20 minutes. If someone tests positive, then the ACNBA will connect them with resources for further testing and treatment.

The Nurse Practitioner, who has been working with Hepatitis C patients for nearly 15 years, says that the cure is just “a couple of pills for a period of time”, depending on the severity of the case. McGuire-Trahan says that there are serious downsides to not treating Hep C in time.

“If you don’t catch it and treat it, it can lead to some devastating long-term effects, such as liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, and death,” she said.

The disease can only be contracted through contact with infected blood. Intravenous drug users who share paraphernalia are the most at risk. Unsanitary spa tools, tattoo equipment, or even shared toothbrushes have also been found to spread the disease.

McGuire-Trahan also says that a significant demographic is particularly susceptible to having the disease without knowing it.

“Anybody born after 1945 and before 1975 should be tested once. We used to do things like reuse syringes and stuff like that. It’s been a decision that’s been made that if you’re in that Baby Boomer age group that you should be tested,” McGuire-Trahan said.

Hepatitis C came under the ACNBA’s jurisdiction in 2012, when the federal government expanded its mandate on HIV/AIDS to also include Hepatitis C. McGuire-Trahan says that the inclusion of Hep C helped many people get much-needed treatment.

“If our patients weren’t terribly ill, we’d keep them waiting until the medication was approved for use and covered…originally [the medications] were crazy expensive, so we were waiting for them to come down in price and be covered by Trillium. As soon as that happened, we blew up,” she said.

The ACNBA also provides clients with connections to social services and secure housing, understanding that many of the people they deal with come from marginalized communities.

World Hepatitis Day will be recognized on July 28 with an aim to spread awareness about the disease. It’s estimated that nearly 32 of every 100,000 people in Canada, according to the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange.

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