Eliminating hepatitis C in Scotland: a discussion with the First Minister

A Forth Valley recovery development worker and the First Minister of Scotland recently met at Bute House in Edinburgh to discuss Scotland’s response to hepatitis C.

Scott Ferguson, now cured of the hepatitis C virus and working as a recovery development worker at Addictions Support and Counselling in Forth Valley, interviewed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to highlight three key asks that will help ensure Scotland CAN eliminate hepatitis C as a public health concern in the years to come.

In the interview, filmed by Hepatitis Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said that Government would sign up to the three asks as they are all crucial in meeting the World Health Organisation’s 2030 target of eliminating hepatitis C as a public health concern.

The First Minister also highlighted that Government must lead by example, and have a moral responsibility, in helping to tackle stigma. She strongly felt treating people with respect and dignity as human beings was and is a key issue in getting people to come forward for testing and treatment. Stigma also impacted in so many other areas that the responsibility to tackle stigma was perhaps the biggest responsibility of all.

Leon Wylie, Lead Officer of Hepatitis Scotland, said, “The First Minister’s answers show that there is a need to prioritise the three asks. It is excellent that she feels stigma is an issue that needs to be addressed at a national level. Stigma related to hepatitis C is usually stigma related to drug use, which often leads to very poor engagement with services and resulting in poor health outcomes.

As she said, we also need to think differently about how we approach drug use and to ask, as a society, what kind of outcome we want for those who are most marginalised.”

SDF would like to thank the First Minister, Scott, and Forth Valley Recovery Community for their time, and for a thoughtful discussion around hepatitis C and wider issues relating to drug use.

Read the HepCScot Partnership’s ‘Three Asks for Elimination’ here