For years, Eva Sinclair wondered what was wrong with her health.
It turns out she was living with hepatitis C.
“I was so sick. I was breaking down,” Sinclair explained.
“As I learned more about hepatitis C, I realized I wasn’t a hypochondriac.”
Sinclair figures she contracted hep C sometime between 1978 and 1998, from either a tattoo, IV drug use, or a hospital stay.
Sinclair wasn’t diagnosed until 2013. She was cured of hepatitis C in 2015.
“I lived for a lot of years and I knew that I had it, but from the street, I had heard it’s only hepatitis,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair now works at AIDS Saskatoon as a drop-in supervisor. She says she wants to stop the stigma around hepatitis.
On Friday, AIDS Saskatoon and the Saskatchewan Infectious Disease Care Network joined together with other community organizations to host a barbecue, offering a chance for people to get tested.
“Saskatchewan has really high rates of hepatitis C and not everybody knows that. This is a good way to engage the community in a positive way,” said Jason Mercredi, the executive director of AIDS Saskatoon.
Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver and it is most commonly spread through human contact with infected blood.
Many people, like Sinclair, will live decades without knowing they’re infected.
“It’s a silent disease that moves very slowly. It affects your liver very, very slowly. It causes inflammation in your body which can affect other systems,” explained Lesley Gallagher, a hepatitis C clinical treatment support nurse.
A simple 12-week treatment can cure hep C and testing only takes a matter of minutes.
“We are now able to test for hep C using a little, simple point-of-care test with a response in 20 minutes,” Gallagher said.