A project to eliminate the virus hepatitis C (HCV) from prisons in England took a step closer to success on World Hepatitis Day as 15 sites were announced as reaching the micro-elimination criteria.
The programme – run by Practice Plus Group, the Hepatitis C Trust and Gilead Sciences – aims to eliminate the virus by 2025 from the 47 prisons where healthcare is provided by Practice Plus Group’s Health in Justice (HIJ) team.
The prisons reaching the rigorous NHS England (NHSE) criteria for elimination stretch from Yorkshire to Devon. Regional Blood Borne Virus Delivery Nurse Manager Arran Ludlow-Rhodes said: “We are delighted with the enormous strides we have made towards overall elimination, despite the effects of the pandemic which limited our ability to run as many all-prison High Impact Test and Treat (HITT) sessions as we had hoped.
“With the invaluable help of the Hepatitis C Trust peer volunteers, who work with prisoners, we have been able to keep up our efforts with targeted testing.”
The UK has approximately 84,000 prisoners. HCV affects as many as one in 20 in male prisoners according to Public Health England data, and an even higher proportion in female prisons. While also eliminating the virus, this programme seeks to set best practice and pathways for the benefit of prisoners everywhere.
“Prisons offer a unique opportunity for people to engage. The environment is relatively stable and residents have access to healthcare screening, treatment, support and education on how the virus is spread. This significant window is enhanced by the access and support provided by the Hepatitis C Trust peers who operate within the prisons.
“By testing, educating and treating, not only do we help patients, but also we help to protect those communities that our patients return to at the end of their sentences from what is a harmful virus.”Arran Ludlow-Rhodes
Professor Matthew Cramp, consultant hepatologist and clinical lead for the South West Peninsula Hepatitis C – Operational Delivery Network, added his congratulations to the micro-elimination of Hep C at HMP Exeter: “Great effort by all of you and I still find myself amazed to think that we can eliminate infection by diagnosing, treating and curing every case.”