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Former Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer opens up about hepatitis C diagnosis, treatment

Former Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer has gone public with her hepatitis C diagnosis and treatment in hopes of breaking the stigma around the disease. Global News

A former Vancouver city councillor has opened up about her hepatitis C diagnosis and treatment.

Andrea Reimer took to Twitter on Monday to share her experience, and to talk about the stigma associated with the illness.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about hepatitis

Hepatitis C is primarily transmitted through infected blood, either through blood transfusions or contaminated needles. It can also be transmitted sexually, though less frequently.

More than a quarter-million Canadians are believed to currently have the disease, including 80,000 in British Columbia.

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: Hepatitis C.' Health Matters: Hepatitis C.
Health Matters: Hepatitis C – Jul 22, 2019

Health officials say 40 to 70 per cent of them may not know they carry the blood-borne virus, and symptoms can take decades to appear.

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Chronic infection can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis of the liver. New medications, however, have proven effective at curing the virus in most people within months.

“56 days, 168 pills and a lot of bouts of nausea later I am very happy to say that yesterday I took my last round of treatment for hepatitis C,” wrote Reimer on Twitter.

READ MORE: B.C. expands drug coverage to anyone suffering from chronic hepatitis C

“HepC infections come with stigma, and up until last year they also came with a lot of stress because the government didn’t cover treatment until you were critically ill at which point the chances of successful treatment and recovery are much lower.”

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British Columbia’s pharmacare company has covered new hepatitis C drug treatments for years, though until recently only in severe cases.

The former BC Liberal government committed to making treatment available to anyone who has the disease, and that expanded coverage was rolled out under the sitting NDP government in 2018-2019.

Click to play video: 'New hepatitis C elimination program targeting drug users' New hepatitis C elimination program targeting drug users
New hepatitis C elimination program targeting drug users – Jun 5, 2019

B.C. now fully covers the cost of the drugs Daklinza, Epclusa, Harvoni, Solvaldi, Zepartier and Vosevi.

A full course of treatment with one drug combination built around Harvoni, for example, was priced in the range of $80,000, but British Columbia and Ontario led national negotiations with drug manufacturers to reduce prices in 2017.

READ MORE: New hepatitis C treatment a ‘game changer’

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Reimer lauded the expanded coverage, saying giving access to people who are still healthy increases the odds of recovery to about 95 per cent.

“You also get to miss a lifetime of wondering if and when liver failure will happen and if you’ll be strong enough then to handle treatment,” she wrote.

“In 6 months I know whether it worked or not, but even after weeks of intense nausea I’m grateful for a gov that gives access to this medicine. Its humane healthcare but it’s also hope for a world where everyone is seen and valued regardless of the trauma they carry with them.”

Reimer said she was also speaking up to encourage anyone who is a current or former IV drug user to get screened for the illness, and to take the treatment if they get a positive diagnosis.

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“You may not be in a space where you can see it now but know that your life is worth saving,” said Reimer.

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