The hepatitis C prevalence rate amongst South Asians is over five times higher than in the general adult population of England,1 and the genotype 3 strand, one of the more aggressive and difficult to treat forms of the virus, is most prevalent amongst this community.
Despite the higher prevalence,1 hepatitis C diagnosis and treatment rates remain low amongst South Asians due to a number of barriers including cultural stigmas.
Left untreated, the virus can cause liver cirrhosis or liver cancer which can not only prove fatal, but increases the financial burden upon the NHS.
Currently, hepatitis C services are provided by a range of providers including Terrence Higgins Trust facilities, drug outreach centres and sexual health clinics. Whilst such settings may prove appropriate for patients infected as a result of injecting drug use, they often prove counterproductive for the South Asian community. The stigma associated with being treated in such centres often prevents patients from coming forward for diagnosis and treatment and reinforces negative community perceptions surrounding hepatitis C.
There is a high prevalence rate within the South Asian community and more needs to be done to improve diagnosis, treatment and care for these patients.
Andrew Gwynne MP said:
“It is important that NHS services for hepatitis C are designed with South Asian patients in mind. We can ensure that no patient is left behind.”