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Free Hep C testing and treatment on Waiheke Island

If you, or someone you know, is living with undiagnosed Hepatitis C, now’s your chance to get tested and treated – for free!

Between 15 May and 1 June, Waiheke Island’s Unichem and Ostend Village pharmacies will be testing as many people for Hep C as they can. A simple finger-prick test only takes a few minutes, which means no appointment is necessary.

If the finger-prick test is positive, and a follow-up blood test confirms the Hep C virus is active, you’ll be provided with an eight-week pharmacy treatment at no cost.

Hep C is an infection that affects the liver and is spread via blood-to-blood contact. Infections can occur by using unsterilised needles, such as piercings, tattoos, third-world medical treatment or injected drugs, or through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, such as sports injuries. If left untreated, it can be fatal.

It’s estimated that over 30,000 Kiwis are currently living with Hep C, with over 200 people passing away from the condition every year. People at risk of being infected come from all walks of life, however as the symptoms are often very mild, such as fatigue or brain fog, many don’t know they have it. The good news is that it is easy to get tested and treated.

Professor Ed Gane, hepatologist at Auckland City Hospital says, “We now have the means to eliminate Hepatitis C from Aotearoa but to do so, we need to find everyone living with Hepatitis C. A simple finger-prick test could save your life.”

Leanne Kirton, Hepatitis C Programme Manager Northern Region says the new, fully funded and effective oral treatment called Maviret ® will cure most people after only eight weeks, and with few side effects.

After running a similar campaign on Great Barrier Island, with several people successfully treated, she’s excited by the focus on further testing.

“It’s time to take another step towards creating a Hep C-free Hauraki Gulf by supporting more people on Waiheke to get tested and, if necessary, treated, which will help avoid long-term liver damage.”

She says the response to testing has already been lifechanging for many.  A person who recently got tested at a pharmacy had the following comment “I’m so pleased my mate made me come we him so I got tested too. I had no idea I had Hep C but at least now I can get treated.”

“This reaction isn’t uncommon,” she continues. “People are usually relieved their Hep C has been found so they can get it treated. They’re often amazed at the positive impact it has on their energy and general well-being. It really is worthwhile taking the time to get tested.”

Participating Northland and Auckland pharmacies as of 29 June 2023. [PDF, 673 KB]

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