On Friday March 17th, Steve Brine MP visited the Trinity Winchester homeless centre to meet with Hampshire Council health officials and charity workers, who are leading efforts to find and treat people affected by hepatitis C in Winchester.
Trinity Winchester addresses the effects of homelessness through specialist practical and emotional support, which the MP has supported through a long relationship with the charity. Mr Brine was joined by Councillor Liz Fairhurst, Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, and council public health officials.
The MP also met with staff from Hep C U Later and Inclusion Recovery Hampshire, who run drug and alcohol treatment in Hampshire and operate a testing van which visits sites like Trinity, where people at risk are more likely to be found. While visting the van, Mr Brine took a finger-prick test for hepatitis C to show how easy it is for people to get tested.
He also spoke to workers from The Hepatitis C Trust peer-to-peer support programme and heard their stories. This scheme involves people who have been impacted by hepatitis C sharing their own experiences so that they can raise awareness among other people who are at risk of contracting the virus, help people to get tested, and support them into treatment.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can cause fatal liver damage and cancer if left untreated. The virsus is preventable, treatable and curable, but 74,600 people in England are still estimated to be living with it.
However this number is hugely down from 160,000 people infected in 2018, thanks to a national programme by NHS England to find and treat people, through efforts like the work seen at Trinity. Steve Brine played a role in developing this national programme when he was a Minister of Health from 2017 to 2019. England is now on track to be one of the first nations to meet a World Health Organization goal to eliminate the virus as a major public health concern.