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December 15, 2003
For immediate release

Hepatitis C Posters Focus on Awareness

Health and Social Services

AIDS PEI and the Department of Health and Social Services launched a hepatitis C poster campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the disease among Island youth and the general public this morning at the AIDS PEI office in Charlottetown.

The two posters, which list the risk factors for hepatitis C and urge anyone who may be at risk to go for testing, will be distributed throughout Island Junior and Senior High Schools, post secondary educational settings, places where youth may gather, Public Health Nursing and Physicians’ offices, and correctional facilities.

Hepatitis C is a blood virus that attacks the liver. Patients respond to treatment in about 60 percent of hepatitis C cases under doctor supervision, which is why it’s so important for people to get tested.

“Getting information about hepatitis C to youth and public has been a challenge because the perception is that injection drug use and hepatitis C are not serious problems affecting our communities,” says AIDS PEI Education Coordinator Dianne Birt. “People don’t realize the scope of the problem on PEI. They tend to think of it as something that effects larger, more urban areas. It’s important that people engaging in high risk behaviours learn more about the danger they are placing themselves, and their friends, in.” Birt hopes that these posters will bring much needed attention to the situation.

Dr. Lamont Sweet, Chief Health Officer for the Province, agrees. “We have 351 diagnosed cases of hepatitis C on Prince Edward Island. This year, about 70 percent of those cases are intravenous drug users who have contracted the virus through shared needles. The virus is spread through contact with infected blood, but it can take years to develop. Symptoms include fatigue, aches, fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, jaundice, tenderness in the abdomen, and unexplained weight loss. Unfortunately many people have no symptoms at all and may not realise they have hepatitis C.”

The posters were created with assistance from the project Advisory Committee, which consists of representatives from the Department of Health and Social Services, AIDS PEI, RCMP, Summerside Municipal Police, Addictions Service - East Prince Health, Mental Health and Addictions - West Prince Health, the Office of the Attorney General (Adult and Youth Corrections), the Department of Education and Correctional Service Canada - Addictions Research Centre.

Media Contact: Island Information Service
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