PEI

P.E.I. could eliminate hepatitis C in province by 2025, says medical advisor

P.E.I. could be the first province to eliminate hepatitis C, says a medical advisor to Health PEI.

Province was first in Canada to have coordinated hepatitis C elimination program

P.E.I. could be on track to be the first province to eliminate hepatitis C. (Benchamat/Shutterstock)

P.E.I. could be the first province to eliminate hepatitis C, says a medical advisor to Health PEI.

The World Health Organization has a goal to have 90 per cent of people worldwide tested for hepatitis C and 80 per cent cured by 2030.

Dr. Lisa Barrett, a clinician scientist with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, has been working with Health PEI's hepatitis C elimination program and said P.E.I. is on track to surpass those goals by 2025.

"You have the political will, you have the funding and you have motivated people and patients. There is no reason that the rest of Canada can't do this," she said.

The Island is the first province in Canada to have a provincially coordinated and funded hepatitis C elimination program. The government pledged $5 million to a prevention strategy in 2015.

"It's not by chance," said Barrett, "it was by design."

The province also recently started to provide patients treatment on their first appointment instead of waiting for blood tests and medication approval. Barrett said this is a reason for the province to be able to reach the elimination goal.

"Other than being an island, which doesn't hurt … there are other places that could be considered very island-like that are nowhere near close to you guys," she said.

'We also treat people wherever you are'

Hepatitis C is a chronic infection spread by blood from person to person that can lead to liver failure and death if not treated.

Treatments are offered completely free of charge — with or without private insurance.

"We also treat people wherever you are," she said.

"It doesn't matter if you're in an addictions centre, it doesn't matter if you're in a correctional facility, a jail, we treat everyone, everywhere, as often as needed to get them cured."

'There is no reason that the rest of Canada can’t do this,' says Dr. Lisa Barrett about P.E.I.'s hepatitis C elimination program. (Sean Young/CBC)

And even without a personal physician, Barrett recommends phoning Health PEI's hepatitis C program and staff will coordinate how people can best access treatment.

Barrett said treatments are now 95 to 98 per cent effective if taken correctly, and that is a major part of prevention.

"Like any infection, if you take it away in the population through treatment, you prevent the spread from person to person," she said.

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About the Author

Sean is a P.E.I.-born journalist splitting his time between Canada's smallest province and Toronto. Email him at sean.young@cbc.ca or find him on Twitter at @seanpatyoung.

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