People are being urged to get tested for Hepatitis C amid fears thousands are unaware they have the illness.
Around 38,000 people live with chronic Hepatitis C in Scotland, while it is estimated a further 18,000 are unaware they have the blood-borne virus that can infect and seriously damage the liver, according to Health Protection Scotland statistics. Figures for 2011 show there were 146 liver-related deaths in Scotland among people diagnosed with the virus.
A national campaign titled "Ever injected? Get tested" is being backed by charities and NHS boards to make sure people who are unaware they have the illness can benefit from treatments available.
Those most at risk include people who currently inject, or have a history of doing so, drugs, steroids, performance enhancing drugs or tanning products, the campaign said. Leon Wylie, lead officer of Hepatitis Scotland, said: "World class care can only be given if people know they have the virus. Current and emerging treatments are a step-change from the original treatments of the 90s.
"The message is, you need to get a test if you have been at risk, if you have the virus it is highly curable."
A former Hepatitis C patient said getting tested was "the best thing I did". Named only as James from Glasgow, he 34-year-old had a history of drug use and started treatment for Hepatitis C last year. He is now a trainee addiction worker.
He said: "Going for treatment was the best thing I did throughout my whole recovery process. My Hepatitis C diagnosis was like a big black cloud hanging over me, but now it's gone.
"I now have a life that was beyond my wildest dreams four years ago - a family, a home, a job. I'm now the person I believe I was always meant to be."
One charity offering testing is Waverley Care, which can take blood samples outside of hospitals and clinics.
Chief executive Grant Sugden said: "It is so important that people who think they may have contracted Hepatitis C step forward to get an early diagnosis. Doing this will help reduce the chances of them having long term health problems.
"Waverley Care offers dry blood spot testing in several areas across Scotland and this can be carried out in a venue that feels comfortable for them. We also know that a diagnosis is more than just the medical side of things - there are many services out there, including Waverley Care, that offer emotional and practical support too."
The month-long campaign features adverts on public transport and online and takes in World Hepatitis Day on July 28. Two metre high red Cs will also be on display in several areas across the country to raise awareness of the illness.
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