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Saskatchewan has the highest rate of hepatitis C infections per person

WATCH ABOVE: A person infected with hepatitis C can access free treatment in Saskatchewan.

It’s as easy as a prick of the finger to test for hepatitis C.

Saskatchewan has the highest rate per capita out of all the provinces for people testing positive, according to Saskatchewan Infectious Disease Care Network (SIDCN), and AIDS Saskatoon held a free hepatitis C screening on Friday afternoon to encourage more people to get tested.

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Lesley Gallager, a hepatitis C support nurse in both Saskatoon and Vancouver, said 240,000 people in Canada are currently living with the virus.

“Only 60 per cent of those have been actually been diagnosed,” she said.

According to Health Canada, hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, liver cancer and premature death.

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New hepatitis C elimination program targeting drug users
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Jason Mercredi with AIDS Saskatoon said many people can go decades without knowing they’re infected.

“For a long time we didn’t know about hepatitis,” he said. “Baby boomers are the highest at-risk and a lot of baby boomers that have hepatitis don’t realize they have it because it’s a really slow progression.”

Gallager said anyone born between 1945 and 1975 has a higher risk of infection, but warns anyone could be at risk.

“We have quite a high immigrant population here,” she said. “We see hepatitis C from certain countries, so we have to be very vigilant.”

READ MORE: HIV and syphilis outbreaks declared in northwest Saskatchewan

Hepatisis C is curable, Gallager said. The treatment takes eight to 12 weeks and is free in Saskatchewan.

“There is nothing standing in anybody’s way,” she said. “As long as you can take a pill every day, we can cure you.”

AIDS Saskatoon has information and resources available if someone wants further information, but Mercredi explained getting the test is the best way to start.

“You don’t have to come into a specialist to get tested for hep C,” he said.

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“You can get it from any family physician. Next time you go in, just say, ‘Can I get a hep C screening?’ and it’s a really simple blood test and you get the results right away.”

Canada is one of 194 countries who have committed to working towards eliminating the virus by 2030.

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