Monday, 19 May 2008

Let's make it a Happy World Hepatitis Day!

Hello all,

It's the first time that we have had a truly global World Hepatitis Day and it's your chance to get involved and help us make sure everyone talks about it today!

I hope you registered with the 'Am I number 12?' campaign and now you have an e-mail from the nice people at the World Hepatitis Alliance resting in your inbox![See my earlier post here]

How can you get involved?

Well, there are numerous ways you can get involved that should not affect you on a Monday when you must be eager to get back to work!

The most important thing you can do is help us raise awareness of the issues and the best way to do that is making sure you get more comfortable with what hepatitis is and how it affects millions of people around the world. Try to find out more and share with the world what you learn. I particularly recommend that you check this out. Maybe invite your friends to visit this blog today and hopefully it'll work as a little seed that you can plant and together we can make it grow.

And finally, don't forget that the question we are all asking ourselves today is: Am I number 12?. I know I am... If you're in doubt, get tested!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Q & A

UPDATED: MAY 16 2008
This will hopefully become the page where we dispel some of the myths surrounding hepatitides in general by asking some of the everyday questions we can have about hepatitis. I've come up with some questions to which I have thoroughly searched the answer and I will keep updating the page regularly. If there are any hepatitis-related questions you would like to have the answer for on this page, feel free to send them to me [] and I will do my best to find the answers for us.
[Disclaimer: All the information presented in this page represents the opinion and findings of the sources quoted in a specific answer. The author of this blog does not claim to possess any authoritative knowledge on the topic and the purpose of this page is to bring together information from different sources. Therefore, this information should only be used as a starting point for your personal research. Remember, if you feel you might have been at risk of contracting any form of hepatitis, get tested.]

How can I get tested? [Kindly submitted by DJ Barron]

What is hepatitis and how many types are there?

Hepatitis means liver inflamation. It is caused by a virus. Around half of all acute cases of hepatitis are due to a viral infection. Several kinds of hepatitis virus can infect the liver, but the most common are the hepatitis A and B viruses.

Hepatitis A is caught through the contamination of food and water with faeces (stools) through poor personal hygiene or sanitation.

Hepatitis B is spread through the exchange of blood and body fluids. It can be caught through unprotected sex, unsterilised needles, needlestick injury (accidental puncture of skin by a used needle), or contaminated blood products.

Hepatitis C is also spread through the exchange of blood or blood products. It is spread through sharing needles and needlestick accidents. It was also spread by blood transfusions before September 1992, when screening for hepatitis C was brought in.

There are four other recognised hepatitis viruses, named from C to G. Hepatitis A and E cause only acute infection, while hepatitis B and C cause chronic (ongoing) illness. Hepatitis D is only present in people infected with hepatitis B. The glandular fever virus can also be a cause of hepatitis.
[Source: NHS_Hepatitis#]

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How is it transmitted?

Hepatitis B transmission occurs when blood from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected. As such, transmission can most commonly occur whenever a non infected patient comes into contact with bodily fluids containing blood from an infected patient [as when having rough sex or when semen or vaginal fluid might contain blood], blood tranfussions [this risk has decreased greatly since 1992], sharing drug-taking paraphernalia and some health workers might be also at risk when attending patients who are infected.
People at risk of contracting Hep B:

• Men who have sex with men
• Heterosexual persons with multiple sex partners
• Injecting drug users who share or have shared needles
• Persons with a history of sexually transmitted infection (STI)
• Household contacts of those infected with HBV
• Newborns of HBV-infected mothers
• Sex partners of those infected with HBV
• Inmates of long-term correctional facilities and prisons
• Patients undergoing hemodialysis
• Healthcare workers and public safety workers with frequent blood contact
• Clients and staff at institutions for the developmentally disabled
• Recipients of certain blood products and transfusions
• Travelers to areas of high HBV endemicity
There is also a very useful and easy to use fact sheet from the Centre For Disease Control and Prevention, which can be foud here:

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection occurs when blood from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected.
The Hepatitis C Virus is spread through sharing needles or "works" when "shooting" drugs, through needlesticks or sharps exposures on the job, or from an infected mother to her baby during birth
[Source: CDC.Gov]
Although it can be sexually transmitted, the level risk of infection is accepted to be really low.
You can also find a very useful fact sheet here:

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Is it true that I can get hepatitis just by kissing someone?

The answer is no. Saliva does carry very minimal amounts of the hepatitis virus when people are infected but not enough to pass it on. However, should one or both kissers have sores in their mouths or suffer from bleeding gums, the risk is relatively higher.

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I've heard that Hepatitis C is not actually sexually transmitted, is this true?

This is, in my opinion, a very misleading statement that can be found in many scientific journals and that some people can take to mean that the risk of contracting the disease through sex is zero. [For example: 'Although HCV is not efficiently transmitted sexually, persons at risk for infection through injection-drug use might seek care in sexually transmitted disease (STD) treatment facilities, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) counseling and testing facilities, correctional facilities, drug treatment facilities, and other public health settings where STD and HIV prevention and control services are available.' [NGC_report]
Although it is scientifically proven that the chances of passing on the hepatitis c virus through heterosexual intercourse are minimal, it must be pointed out that some sexual activities increase the risk of contracting the disease. As a blood-borne virus, sexual activities where blood might be exchanged [for example, rough anal sex] can still pass on the virus.
So, although considered a low risk level, sexual intercourse might still be an important factor in the spreading of hepatitis C. People with several sexual partners or who practice rough sex should always use a condom to reduce the chances of exchanging blood or having bodily fluids like semen mixed with infected blood.
Please refer to this fact sheet for more info:

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How can I get tested? [Submitted by DJ Barron]

In the UK, the best way to get tested is by approaching your nearest Sexual Health Clinic where you can either book an appointment or attend one of their drop-in centres. There you can have a confidential chat with a specialist who will be able to answer your questions and get your blood tests underway if deemed necessary. To find your nearest Sexual Health Clinic, click here and select the 'Infection testing (GUM) clinics' option, followed by your post code [UK only].

Alternatively, you can approach your personal practitioner who will be able to advise you.

I haven't been able to find info about other regions of the world but I'm on it. However, if you believe you might have contracted hepatitis, visit your personal/family doctor who will be able to advise you

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Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Are you number 12?

This 19th of May is the World Hepatitis Day. As part of the drive to raise awareness, the World Hepatitis Alliance and over 200 patient groups around the world have launched the viral campaign: 'Am I number 12?' [you can register and support this worthy campaign here]

Why should everyone be asking this question? Well, it is a not-too-well known fact that more than 500 million people around the world are living with either Hep B or Hep C. 500 million people! That's 10 times the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS. And it means that 1 out of 12 people in the planet is Hep positive. This is why we should be asking whether we could be number 12.

This is why I invite you to use May 19 as a day to learn a bit more about hepatitis and to help us raise awareness of the issue. 1.5 million people die every year because hepatitides. Help us make that number as relevant as possible in the world's healthcare agenda.

Are you number 12?

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Before we start, a little bit more about me...

Hello there.

As you've already seen from the blog in general, my name is Euclides Montes and I'm 25. I live in North London with my partner and I'm a sociologist. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia where I lived until the age of 16. In 1999, I moved to England and I've lived in London ever since. [That's me on the right!]

When I was 12, I got a scholarship to go to one of the best public schools in Colombia where the curriculum included agricultural studies. As part of that module, I had to start using tools and very soon into my first year at the school my right arm started to get very swollen and the pain was unbearable. After seeing several doctors [and being mis-diagnosed as suffering from acute tendonitis] I was eventually diagnosed with the late stages of a very aggressive bone cancer that was already spreading to other parts of my body.

I immediately started treatment that included chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a few operations. Half way through this very strenuous treatment, my body defenses were down entirely and a simple cold almost killed me. I was hospitalised and, sparing you all the gruesome details, three nights into my stay at hospital I almost died and I had to have two emergency blood tranfusions during the night. The tranfusions helped me to see it through the night and eventually I recovered and was allowed to go home.

In the course of the health screenings I had to undergo whilst having my treatment, it came to the attention of the doctors that I had been given Hep B and Hep C when I had received those emergency blood tranfusions.

So, at the age of 12 1/2, I also started to receive treatment for both cases of hepatitis.

By the age of 14, I had finished the inteferon course for my hepatitis and I had survived the tumour that had threatened my life. I stopped going to hospital and as far as I was aware, I was 100% healthy.

On the first week of January this year, and as part of a routine health check, I had my blood screened and I was very shocked when I heard that I still had Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. It was a very hard blow for me personally to find out that I had been carrying these diseases for the last 12 years and that I could go through life unaware of that fact.

For the best part of a month, I could not even tell my family the news. The pain was unbearable. I was very lucky to have an amazing partner that helped me to come to terms with being Hep B and Hep C positive and I don't doubt that life would have been a lot harder without her love and support [thanks beautiful].

And here we are now. I've had a liver biopsy, my blood has been screened and tested and the doctors have suggested that I undergo a treatment that would include 1 year of daily tablets and weekly injections. I have decided that I'm going to take the treatment [in spite of the less-than-50% chances of a full recovery and the undesirable side effects of the treatment - I will post later on on this topic] and in my next appointment I will hopefully start my treatment.

So, this is where this project comes from. Its purposes are manifold really. I want to make sure people learn more about these diseases and raise awareness of this important issue. I want Hep positive patients to have a place where they can find the information they need to make informed decisions about treatment, lifestyle and other concerns that they may have. I want to use this as forum to help me put into words the challenges and worries that lie in the year ahead for me in the hope that my experience will help others in some way.

Hope you join me!

Why Prometheus?

Prometheus, as Greek mythology would have it, was the valiant titan who stole fire from the gods and brought it back to humankind, pretty much kickstarting civilization. Zeus, however, did not like that even a little bit and gave him one of those punishments of which the Greek gods were so fond. He was tied to a rock where a vulture would visit him everyday and feast upon his regenerating liver, for all eternity.

I felt that Prometheus punishment was akin to the experience that many Hepatitits positive sufferers in the world go through. His pain and frustration being shared by many of the humans he strived to help in his quest against the gods.

So, like the Greek titan, this humble blog will try to recover something that seems to be missing from our general human knowledge: Awareness of hepatitides in our society.

I'll try to put together information about these illnesses from diverse sources [medical, scientific, advisory etc] combined with the many campaigns that, like us, are trying to make sure all of us know more about hepatitides. On top of that, as a Hep B and Hep C sufferer myself, I will bring into the blog all personal experience I can about what it means to live with these two illnesses on a day-to-day basis. Hopefully, raising awareness will help us to understand the issue much better, dispel many of the myths that surround it and help others [and myself!] to lead full lives without the shadow of that general ignorance that can make many [me included for a while] doubt whether sharing a diagnosis with the world is a good idea.

So, like Prometheus, let's go in search of that knowledge together. Whether you're an organisation providing help, a medical association, a Hep. positive patient or an individual who wants to get involved, let me hear from you and let's create a nice, useful portal for everyone.

Finally, because deep down inside I'm a sucker for happy endings, don't forget that Prometheus was finally freed and his vicious vulture slayed! So the name and reference is not ominous but it rather is a little ray of hope from the very beginning.

Prometheus Search

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