MP Hep C Learning Event in Ottawa
May 18, 2017
Action Hepatitis Canada was pleased to host a Hep C Learning Event for MPs, sponsored by MP Michael McLeod, in the Parliamentary Restaurant. Most of the AHC Exec was in attendance, along with member organization representatives Karine L from Dopamine in Montreal, Janet R and Ecaterina D from CSIH, and Rob Boyd from Sandy Hill CHC Oasis Program.
MP McLeod shared some of his story of how he came to be a champion for Hep C awareness and testing, after going through the diagnosis and treatment process with a close family member. He noted that although his relative was cured, many of his friends were diagnosed too late, and that the federal government has an obligation to take leadership in raising awareness of the need for testing and eliminating this curable disease, particularly testing of the age cohort born between 1945-1975.
Dr. Curtis Cooper from the Ottawa Hospital and a CanHepC member, shared from his clinical perspective, and that while MP McLeod's story is an unfortunate one, it is not unique, that every day in clinics across the country, individuals are finding out that they are either not sick enough to qualify for treatment, or being diagnosed too late for treatment to be effective.
We also heard from Mike Bigelow, an individual who lives in Ottawa and bravely shared about his own experience of being diagnosed with hepatitis C and his struggle in the healthcare system to prove he was "worthy" of curing.
Patricia Bacon, chair of AHC, wrapped up, reminding the MPs that the Canadian government has made an international commitment to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat by 2030, and that part of that commitment included making a National Action Plan, yet Canada still does not have one and without a coordinated, resourced plan, this target will not be met.
All 4 speakers were very impactful and shared similar messages from their own perspectives:
Hepatitis C is preventable, it is curable, and we have made an international commitment to eliminate it as a public health threat by 2030. Despite great progress on the science side, policy-wise there are still barriers in getting the cure to those who need it. Federal leadership is needed to meet these international commitments and save thousands of Canadian lives.
As well as speakers, we had allowed time for MPs to receive advice on concerns that constituents are bringing to them about hepatitis C. We were able to have very good conversations with several MPs, including MP Sheri Benson from Saskatoon. MP Benson is very concerned about the hepatitis C rates in her province, and wants to be involved in our regional meeting when the AHC comes to Saskatoon this October. MP Saini of Kitchener was a pharmacist before going in to politics, and so he understood the benefits of early diagnosis and the important opportunity presented by these new drugs with their high efficacy and low side effects. MP Ken McDonald from St. John's, NL was very interested and engaged, and MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet of Montreal is very supportive of hepatitis C testing as well. MP Kamal Khera from Brampton West was there briefly and asked us to follow up with her to see how her office could lend support.
Thank you to the MPs who attended, who were open to learning, and to our speakers and members who attended and shared their stories.
Many thanks as well to the AHC members who reached out to their own MPs to follow up on our invitation. Requests from constituents carry so much more weight, and our power is in our network. Leveraging our local connections across the country is what will help our important message cut through the numerous requests government officials receive every day.
March 9, 2017
Action Hepatitis Canada was very active in Banff last week, making the most of the gathering of Canada's top hepatitis C experts for the 6th Canadian Symposium on HCV.
On Thursday, March 2, the AHC Steering Committee met for the first face-to-face meeting of the year, tackling big questions of priorities, remaining barriers, and where to best place our efforts for maximum impact on the issues of testing and diagnosis, pricing and access, monitoring and care, political engagement/messaging, upcoming opportunities, and our 2017 regional capacity building meeting in the prairies.
On Friday morning ahead of the Symposium, we hosted a number of physicians and nurses in a very productive breakfast meeting. We were able to share a little about who the AHC is and what we do, and receive valuable feedback from these treaters about what policy barriers interfere with their work, how the AHC can help them, and ways that they would be interested in collaborating with the AHC. The information gleened from this short time together was invaluable and we are very grateful to the treaters who made time to meet with us.
The Symposium provided lots of interesting perspectives in the research and policies around hepatitis C treatment and care and the goal of elimination. It also provided an opportunity for the AHC to meet new potential members, share some of our positions, and further our relationship with CanHepC. Our chair Patricia Bacon represented the AHC very well on a panel discussing the need for a national strategy, and we were able to distribute postcards and display a poster, in addition to our info booth.
All in all, a very full and productive 2 days of advocacy in Banff.
Pricing & Treatment Access +