Hepatitis C rising among young drug users
The HIV epidemic in the 1980s led to serious efforts made by healthcare and social services - both in treating the disease and in raising awareness about how it is spread. The result was a significant drop in HIV cases among needle users in Sweden. But serious diseases are still a problem for Swedish drug users. Hepatitis C is rising among young users.
Magnus Andersson from the needle exchange program at the Infection Clinic in Malmö says one of his concerns is that hepatitis C, also transmitted through blood, is spreading among this group, who often have contracted the disease before showing up to the clinic.
"Among first time visitors to the program, over 60 percent test positive for hepatitis C", he says.
Andersson says the problem affects groups of marginalized young people in particular. In Malmö where he works, there are a large number of young people who come from low economic households and have family and social problems that make them turn to drugs.
"I think society must do much more to prevent the spread of hepatitis C among these young people", says Andersson. "They are so young, they do not know about the risks."
If hepatitis C is contracted at a young age, Andersson says, patients face a life of suffering with a disease that is difficult and costly to treat. He says more needs to be done to prevent young people from contracting the disease.
"It's not an easy treatment. You have to suffer a lot, and it costs a lot of money.To treat only one patient costs over 400,000 Swedish kronor."
"It's right to treat people, but you have to also, as we did with HIV came in the 80s, spend much more effort on reducing the spreading of hepatitis C among these young people in the beginning", he says.