July 28, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Today is World Hepatitis Day: on July 28th, we unite with people around the globe to take action and raise awareness about hepatitis, to remind all Canadians about the importance of knowing your hepatitis status, and to spread the word about treatment.
Viral hepatitis continues to be a key public health concern in Canada. In 2019, there were over 4,900 reported cases of hepatitis B and over 11,400 reported cases of hepatitis C in Canada. Hepatitis C is a silent epidemic, as many people are unaware they are living with a chronic infection, which means they are not able to access curative treatment, may suffer serious long-term health effects, and may unknowingly pass the virus on to others.
We know some people are unfairly exposed to conditions that put them at greater risk for hepatitis and other health issues. Canada’s worsening opioid crisis, compounded further by COVID-19 has put certain populations and people who use drugs at a greater risk of a number of health issues, including hepatitis C infection. COVID-19 has also affected the delivery of and access to crucial health and harm reduction services supporting these groups. It is vital that we work together to address inequities that contribute to hepatitis infection, develop tailored interventions, and end the systemic discrimination and stigma that prevents individuals from accessing testing, treatment, and care.
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, I am inspired by the many community organizations and service providers across the country working tirelessly to reach those affected by hepatitis, and who lead change by challenging the stigma and discrimination within our health systems and communities. It is important that we support their work through our own individual actions to address stigma.