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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 00:02 GMT 01:02 UK
Hepatitis C 'needn't be a killer'
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Neil advises anyone who thinks they might be at risk to get tested
Neil Hudson, 35, discovered by accident during routine health checks that he had caught hepatitis C virus from infected blood he had received while critically ill in hospital years earlier.

Neil, from South London, says he is one of the lucky ones because he has since been able to get the treatment that can cure between 50-80% of those with the virus.

Only 1-2% of the 466,000 people believed to be infected with hepatitis C in the UK are on such treatment, partly because six out of seven remain undiagnosed, experts estimate.

Such figures have prompted the Hepatitis C Trust, which says the UK lags behind many other European countries in its diagnosis and treatment of the disease, to call for urgent government action.

Neil says it is vital that more people get tested and treated.

There could be an awful lot of people who don't know that they are infected
Neil Hudson

"If you have ever had a piercing, a tattoo, if you shared any razors or toothbrushes, if you have snorted cocaine, if you have used intravenous drugs or if you have had a blood transfusion or received blood products, there is a chance that you could have hepatitis C.

"That's not scaremongering. That's fact. That is how the virus is transmitted.

"There could be an awful lot of people who don't know that they are infected.

"If you think you are at risk, you should get tested because there is something you can do about it now rather than let it eat away at your liver and take away the standard of your life and even your life.

"Get treatment"

"It's by no means a death sentence. There are treatments that can help."

Since finishing a year's treatment of a drug called pegylated interferon in June 2004, Neil has had undetectable levels of the virus in his blood.

Although it is not possible yet to know if he is cured, the signs are good.

However, Neil said it is a struggle for many patients to get the care they need.

"There is no infrastructure there which is terribly frustrating. Even six years after I was diagnosed, as a country, we are in exactly the same place. People don't know about the risks and are still finding it hard to get care."

The government has launched a national framework for action on hepatitis C.

The Hepatitis C Trust is calling for new screening targets, awareness campaigns and better access to treatments for the liver condition.




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