by Wayne Bristrow - March 30, 2011
Last week, I attended a workshop on Hepatitis C in Waterloo Region put on by ACCKWA (AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo and Area) and the Sanguen Health Centre. Brendan McCallum, the Hep C Worker for ACCKWA. delivered his Hep C 101 course. Leah Boelhouwer from Toronto Public Works did a presentation on Harm Reduction Initiatives and Dr. Chris Steingart, Medical Director of the Sanguen Health Centre, spoke on Expanded Hepatitis C Support & Treatment Services.
I learned how increases in Hep C infected have impacted the workload of our AIDS Service Organzations (ASOs) and of healthcare workers. The meeting was geared towards community service workers, as well as workers from the prison system.
The Sanquen Health Centre is Ontario's first community-based outpatient clinic offering treatment and support services for people living with Hep B & C. Their team of healthcare providers is able to offer patients effective and compassionate treatment options that address their physical, social and emotional support needs. They now have two locations, one in Guelph Ontario as part of the Masai/HIV clinic and the other at AIDS Commitee of Guelph (ACG), with all three services available at each place. There is now another office in Kitchener/Waterloo Ontario that is partnered with the KW area Masai Centre.
If people test positive for Hep C in that area, there is a good chance they will be referred to the Sanguen Health Centre for their healthcare needs. The Centre works closely with Public Health, ACG and ACCKWA, as some/many patients may be co-infected with HIV. Both ASOs offer confidential Hep C testing and anonymous HIV testing as well as harm reduction and outreach by putting together and distributing safe crack use kits, needle exchange kits, piercing kits and condoms, all free of charge.
Funding for most of the services is available but sometimes the kits that are packaged may not have all the necessary items due to supply and cost factors. Outreach/Harm Reduction is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to help prevent further transmission of Hep C but it relies in part on fundraising revenues.
I'm no expert, but I do know Hep C attacks the most important organ in our body, the liver. It is easier to treat if caught early. The combination of Hep C and HIV can be very serious and should be treated quickly. Often there are no symptoms in the early stages (10-20 years). Most people feel fine so they do not get tested.
For more information on Hep C and HIV,one of your best bets is CATIE 1-800-263 1638
Bottom Line? I take my fedora off to all of the great people who work so hard for ACG, ACCKWA and the Sanquen Health Centre. You do an amazing job for our community. I have had the opportunity to work with many of them, in a volunteer capacity and have learned so much about caring for myself and getting involved, advocating for Positiive Prevention and for ending the stigma attached to both HIV and Hep C.