Flanders wants to reach more drug users with hepatitis C
Flanders is investing EUR 150,000 to expand the work of nurses in the fight against hepatitis C among drug users. Hepatitis C can often be treated well and effectively nowadays. Yet every year only 1 to 2 percent of people who use drugs and have chronic hepatitis C start treatment.
"We have been experimenting with ways to reach this vulnerable group in recent years. It is now time to apply what we have learned to the whole of Flanders," said Flemish minister of Welfare and Health Hilde Crevits this morning on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day. "The health benefits that we can achieve with this initiative are great."
Drug users run a higher risk of contracting and passing on hepatitis C, which is mainly caused by sharing needles to inject drugs. Until now, infected drug users could only be counseled in Limburg and Antwerp, where last year some 300 people were counseled. Nurses there intensively follow up the patients and try to reach drug users better, so that the threshold to start treatment is lower. This work is now being extended to all of Flanders, so that in time 500 people can be followed up annually.
© BELGA PHOTO/ Jonathan NACKSTRAND - Nobel Committee member Patrik Ernfors sits in front of a screen displaying the work field of the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine during a press conference at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 5, 2020. Americans Harvey Alter and Charles Rice together with Briton Michael Houghton won the Nobel Medicine Prize on Monday for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, the Nobel jury said.