HFI Connect - Hepatitis
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Hepatitis awareness bus travels through South Canterbury

Overcoming hepatitis has led to 17 years of educating others.

Manager of the Hepatitis C Trust Bill Jang has been touring around the South Island raising awareness of hepatitis.

This week he had been to Waimate, Timaru and Geraldine sharing information about prevention and treatment of the the blood-borne virus.

He has been travelling around in a bus decorated with posters and facts to help make people aware.

"It has been a very successful tour and we've talked to lots of people."

In New Zealand there are about 120,000 people diagnosed with hepatitis; between 40,000 and 50,000 with type C and about 90,000 with type B.

Jang said they were trying to target the older generation who possibly had a hidden infection.

The virus can could then lead to liver problems including liver cancer.

He said the disease was primarily caught after needle-injected drug use in the 1970s, when not many people knew about it hepatitis C.

Needle exchanges have helped lower the rate of hepatitis in drug users. It was now more about educating young people about the dangers of unsafe tattoos and piercings, Jang said.

Jang himself was diagnosed with the virus in 1996, but he thought he got the infection in the 1970s. He was cured 13 years ago.

"We had hard treatments, it does knock you around."

However, it could now be treated with a pill targeted at the virus with a 98/100 per cent cure rate.

The only issue was the drug was very expensive - about $94,000 for four weeks of treatment.

Jang had been invited to attend a hepatitis summit in Glasgow to talk about trying to get the government to help fund the treatment.