British Columbia to follow HIV model to treat viral hepatitis

British Columbia's Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid announced last week that the Canadian province would receive $1.87 million in funding to replicate a plan used for HIV infection on the treatment of viral hepatitis.

The province used a successful HIV model to look at preventing measures, engage at-risk populations and discover treatment methods to reduce the number of HIV infections. Now the model will be applied to hepatitis B and hepatitis C, the Canadian Press reports.

"(We want to offer) a promise of not just an HIV and AIDS free generation, but a hepatitis B, a hepatitis C and a hepatitis-free generation," Julio Montaner, the director of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said, according to the Canadian Press.

Approximately $1.48 million of the funding will be spent on hepatitis B and C research. Approximately $394,000 will be allocated for the charitable group S.U.C.C.E.S.S. The charity helps people in immigrant communities settle into Canada.

"The challenge with hepatitis B is that people can feel very well for many years as the disease is attacking the liver," Christine Brodie, the chairwoman of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., said, according to the Canadian Press. "By the time they become symptomatic it is often too late."

MacDiarmid said it is common for immigrants to Canada to have less preventive viral hepatitis vaccines prior to arriving in the country. According to the BC Center for Disease Control, 25 percent of hepatitis C and most hepatitis B infections occur in immigrants. Most of them become infected in their country of origin.

Approximately 60,000 British Columbians are infected with hepatitis B and 80,000 are infected with hepatitis C, the Canadian Press reports.