If you have hepatitis C and also have an addiction problem, then you are at risk for severely and quickly damaging your liver. Alcohol, tobacco and many prescription pain medicines are known to damage the liver when taken in high doses. If you are still using IV drugs, treatment will be very challenging, and if cured, you could get HCV again. As well, having an addiction to alcohol or drugs can sometimes be the grounds for denial of treatment. But this is changing as Canada adopts harm reduction methods.
There are now many organizations in Canada that have outreach clinics for people with addictions who also have HCV. One of these organizations is AVI (AIDS Vancouver Island).
Here is what they have to say:
Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies that reduce negative consequences of drug use, incorporating a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence. Harm reduction strategies meet drug users “where they’re at”, addressing conditions of use along with the use itself.
Harm reduction strategies also apply to sexual behaviour. Individuals can engage in safer sexual behaviours along a continuum of risk. See our harm reduction suggestions aimed at gay and bisexual men.
Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies are designed to reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction. Rather, harm reduction strategies work with individuals and communities to engage in safer activities, regardless of the nature of present activities.
Needle Exchange Programs were established as a public health measure to prevent the spread of HIV among people who use drugs by injection and the wider community. They are now recognized as a cornerstone of efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other blood borne infections and as accessible health services for people who use drugs by injection.
For these reasons needle exchanges do more than provide sterile injecting equipment. They also provide a range of services to people who inject and the wider community, aimed at health maintenance and the prevention of drug harms. These services include but are not limited to: information and education, health care services, referrals to other health and social welfare services.
AIDS Vancouver provides these harm reduction services in our Victoria, Courtenay, Campbell River, and Port Hardy offices. Please visit our contact page for information on these locations.
AVI offers needle exchange, harm reduction education and tools, referrals, support, advocacy, social recreational opportunities and other relevant programming such as detox acupuncture. Please give us a call for a schedule of activities. To open up a needle exchange account identification is not needed and it is a confidential service.