AIDS Committee of North Bay encouraging people to get tested for Hepatitis C

Wednesday marks World Hepatitis Day and the AIDS Committee of North Bay is encouraging people to get tested.

Hepatitis C is a disease that affects the liver. Keri McGuire-Trahan, a nurse practitioner with the AIDS Committee of North Bay, told CTV News that one to two per cent of the population in North Bay is living with the condition.

"That’s a significant number of people in the area and, of course, COVID has skewed things," McGuire-Trahan said.

"Now, there’s more drug and alcohol use so we’re starting to see more positives come in. I suspect our numbers are going to go up a bit more."

As places reopen in North Bay, Trahan said it’s crucial people get tested.

"The test itself is a finger prick like a diabetic test -- we have answers within 20 minutes," she said.

"That tells us whether or not you’ve been exposed. If you have been, we will do more blood work to find out if have active disease, then we offer treatment."

On World Hepatitis Day, the committee is hoping to raise awareness about Hepatitis C and to also clear up any misconceptions.

"A lot of people are mistaken in the sense that they feel like there is vaccines for Hep C, which there is not," said Glenn Petersen who’s the Hepatitis C outreach coordinator for AIDS Committee of North Bay.

"That’s for A and B when you travel. It’s a worldwide problem -- hepatitis in general, and Hep C is a Canadian problem where a lot of it comes from IV drug use."

Trahan has been testing for and treating Hepatitis C since 2006, and she said the treatment is now a lot easier on people’s bodies.

“When we started 20, 25, 30 years ago, the treatment was nasty, it was brutal, lots of side-effects,” she said.

“Now, we’ve advanced that. We have an all oral regime that’s very short -- eight to 12 weeks with virtually no side-effects and a 95 per cent cure rate.”

The AIDS Committee of North Bay offers Hepatitis C testing at their downtown clinic on McIntyre Street West, and also offers testing via their outreach van.