Blood Borne Viruses support
Blood borne viruses (BBVs) continue to have a detrimental effect on the health of drug and alcohol users, despite the fact that effective prevention and treatment options are available. Addaction is actively working to reduce the impact of BBVs through enhancing and supporting existing service provision in line with our BBV Strategy. We also provide a number of BBV specific support services.
To find out more about our BBV projects choose from the links on the left.
For more information on BBVs see below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on BBVs
The most common blood borne viruses are hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a type of virus that causes damage to the liver and can result in liver disease.
The hepatitis C virus is also referred to as HCV for short. It was first identified in 1989 and a test for hepatitis C has been available since 1991. It is a blood borne virus which means infection can occur if blood carrying the virus gets into your blood stream. This is referred to as ‘blood to blood' contact and could happen in many ways however most commonly occurs from sharing equipment to inject drugs. This includes spoons, cookers, filters, water and anything else involved in the process.
Most people do not realise they have been infected with the virus, because symptoms may not develop at once, or at all. The only way to determine if someone has hepatitis C is to take a test.
Approximately 20% of people infected with HCV will spontaneously clear the virus however for everybody else they will develop a chronic infection. Even without any noticeable symptoms the liver is slowly being damaged. Anyone with hepatitis C should seek specialist care, usually provided at the liver unit in hospitals. Treatment is available to clear the virus and usually takes up to 12 months, depending on which strain or genotype of hepatitis C the individual has. Treatment has vastly improved over the last few years and there are many new drugs in development which will improve it further.
There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C.
How Common is Hepatitis C?
If you are living with hepatitis C, it may help to know you are not alone. There are up to 200 million people world wide and around 250,000 individuals in the UK thought to be living with hepatitis C. These are estimates based on the data collected by experts so far but the real figure is not known.
Other European countries have similar or higher levels of infection. Hepatitis C is a national and international challenge to healthcare and prevention. It is a major concern for anyone writing or delivering health and prevention strategies in the UK, Europe and beyond.
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a type of virus that causes damage to the liver and can result in liver disease.
Hepatitis B is transmitted to other people by exposure to the blood or body fluids of an infected person. Hepatitis B is much more infectious than HIV. Most people do not realise they have been infected with the virus, because symptoms may not develop at once, or at all.
The virus is present in bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid and saliva. It can be passed from person to person through unprotected sex or by sharing equipment to inject drugs. Infected mothers can also transmit the virus to their baby during childbirth.
The majority of people infected with hepatitis B are able to spontaneously clear the virus in the first six months, however approximately 10% will develop a chronic infection. This is more common in babies born to mothers with hepatitis B, but it can also occur in adults. If you develop long term hepatitis B, you may stay well, but you can still pass on the virus. Symptoms may come and go, or you may develop serious liver damage.
There is a vaccine for hepatitis B available for free in the UK to those at high risk. It involves 3 or 4 injections over a period of time.
There are approximately 180,000 people with chronic hepatitis B in the UK. The large majority of new chronic infections are attributable to the immigration of people already infected.
What is HIV?
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system. When the immune system is weakened, the body is unable to cope with other infections and illnesses. Most people do not realise they have been infected with the virus, because symptoms may not develop for a very long time. The only way to find out if someone has HIV is to get tested.
For most people in the UK, being infected with HIV is not a death sentence anymore. There is effective treatment available which keeps the amount of the virus in the body very low to enable a fairly normal, healthy life.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is used to describe what happens to someone who has had HIV for a long time and has not been on treatment. Their immune system is very weak and they may develop a life threatening condition such as pneumonia. Without treatment, someone may die as a result of having AIDS.