REGINA -- All Nations Hope Network hosted a Hepatitis C testing clinic on Wednesday to help spread awareness of World Hepatitis Day.

The goal of the day, which is recognized on July 28, is to raise awareness and stop the spread of the virus.

The clinic offered a finger prick test, which takes about five minutes and will tell the patient if they have been exposed to Hepatitis C. If the test is positive, the person will be referred to get blood tests to see if the virus is present in their body. If they do, they will be referred to treatment.

All Nations Hope Network said hosting the testing clinics is important to the community.

“Having the resources right here and in our centre to meet the needs of our community, where (in) other areas they may feel stigmatized, feel not welcome,” said Carolyn Pelletier, a community-based research navigator with All Nations Hope, said. “You want the best help for everybody and we’ve built a relationship here and they trust us. After a coffee and something to eat, we encourage them to come in and get testing judgement free.”

Pam Ford, a Hepatitis C consult nurse, said the virus attacks the liver and is called the silent killer because most people who have it don’t know they have been infected.

“There are no side effects specific to Hepatitis C until the virus starts to do some damage,” Ford said. “Once that starts to happen, obviously you will start to notice whether you know you end up with cirrhosis, possibly a liver cancer, you might notice some yellowing of your eyes or your skin.”

She added that about 250,000 Canadians are currently living with Hepatitis C and approximately 44 per cent of those don’t even know they have the virus.

Ford said it is very easy for the virus to spread, adding that it is most commonly spread through drug paraphernalia and home-made tattoos.

“The virus is strong. It can live on a surface for us to 60 days, so 100 per cent bleach is the only thing that will get rid of it,” she said.

According to Ford, Hepatitis C is 100 per cent curable with treatment consisting of medication that is taken daily for a couple of months.

She said nurses throughout Canada are working with the World Health Organization to eradicate the virus by 2030, which can only be done through testing and treatment.

“If we can start eliminating people’s virus and getting rid of it so they aren’t sharing it, passing it onto somebody else, those would be the biggest steps.”