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Launched today on World Hepatitis Day, the Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne called the guidelines “important”.
The new guideline was developed by a group led by the HSE, HPSC and was quality assured by the Department’s National Clinical Effectiveness Committee (NCEC).
This is the first National Clinical Guideline on a public health topic.
There are between 20,000 and 30,000 people living in Ireland with hepatitis C, but three out of five of them haven’t been diagnosed yet.
“New medicines in recent years mean we can now treat and even cure hepatitis C but the first step is identification of the people who require treatment, which is why this guideline is so important,” said Minister Byrne.
The guideline is designed to further raise the quality of screening services and prevent variations in practice. Specifically it addresses who should be offered screening and how screening should be done.
“This guideline will increase awareness of hepatitis C and the need for testing,” said Dr Kevin Kelleher, Director of the HPSC.
“We hope it will encourage people who may be in a risk group for infection to come forward to be tested. Testing, and then linking people who are diagnosed with hepatitis C into care and treatment is an important step in reducing the ill-health associated with hepatitis C in Ireland.
“We also need to continue our work on supporting people who may be at risk of hepatitis C, and providing the public with the information to prevent new infections.”