Govt launches pilot programme for free hepatitis C tests

2022-09-28 03:44     BY Tony Wong    Comment:1

The Health Bureau (SSM) announced in a statement yesterday that it has launched a new pilot programme providing free hepatitis C virus (HCV) rapid antibody tests (RATs) for high-risk groups. 

According to the statement, the pilot programme aims to provide rapid screening, diagnosis, and follow-up medical treatment for those who carry a higher risk of getting infected with the hepatitis C virus.

The statement said that the free HCV rapid antibody tests cover local residents aged 18 or over who have not received follow-up consultation, diagnosis or treatment for hepatitis C at the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre over the past 12 months, and are in either one of three groups of individuals with a higher risk of getting infected with the hepatitis C virus.

According to the statement, the three groups are 1) those with a history of drug abuse, either injecting or non-injecting drugs; 2) gay or bisexual men; and 3) those who have been infected with HIV/AIDS or are suspected of having been infected with HIV/AIDS.

Those eligible for the pilot programme have to make an appointment by calling 2850 0600 during office hours for an HCV rapid antibody test, the statement said.

According to the statement, the HCV rapid antibody tests are carried out at the Nossa Senhora do Carmo-Lago Health Centre, which is located in the Lago public housing estate in Taipa.

The statement also said that the pilot programme aims to detect and treat HCV carriers as early as possible with the objective of preventing liver cirrhosis or liver cancer resulting from chronic hepatitis C.

According to the statement, testees need to have a very small amount of blood collected from a fingertip for an HCV rapid antibody test, a process known as fingerstick, which refers to the pricking of a finger in order to obtain a small sample of blood. A test result is available in 15 minutes, the statement said.

According to the statement, those who test positive in an HCV rapid antibody test will then have to undergo an HCV RNA test, which is able to confirm whether he or she has been infected with the hepatitis C virus.

More details about the pilot programme in Chinese or Portuguese can be checked at:

Moreover, the statement noted that hepatitis C is mainly transmitted through blood contact, such as by sharing a needles and syringes, adding that transmissions through sexual contact and mother-to-child transmissions are relatively rare.

The statement pointed out that hepatitis C is not transmitted through the air, food or mosquitoes, and neither is it transmitted through physical contact with those infected with the hepatitis C virus, such as hugging, shaking hands and sharing cutlery.

The statement also noted that most of those infected with the hepatitis C virus will not develop any symptoms. According to the statement, the body will fight off the virus, in around 30 percent of cases who have been infected, within six months after catching it, but around 70 percent of them will develop chronic hepatitis C, which could result in serious consequences such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

The statement noted that in recent years, over 90 percent of chronic hepatitis C patients can be cured through oral antiviral medication.

The statement remined that as no vaccines against hepatitis C have yet been developed, residents are advised to take different measures to prevent infection, such as not sharing syringes, needles or personal items that can easily damage the mucous membranes of the skin. 

This image taken from Wikipedia last night shows the structure of the Hepatitis C Virus.

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