Change Grow Live delivers health screenings for Afghan Refugees in Northamptonshire

More than 70 Afghan refugees have volunteered for the screenings

Friday, 29th October 2021, 3:38 pm
Updated Friday, 29th October 2021, 3:40 pm
The group provides screenings for the homeless among others.

Several health screenings held for more than 70 Afghan refugees in Northamptonshire have had a 'fantastic' response, with nurses saying they were 'deeply touched' by the experience.

The screenings were held over three days by Change Grow Live, a voluntary organisation specialising in substance misuse. They helped support the screenings which were held at two hotels previously closed off to house the refugees after they fled their home country in fear of the Taliban.

The group liaised with the Hep C Trust and local GPs to diagnose and begin treatment for anyone who might have had Hepatitis C (Hep C), a virus that infects the liver and can cause serious damage over time if left untreated.

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The virus can be caught through contact with infected blood, meaning those who inject drugs or even get tattoos can be infected by dirty needles. Fortunately it can generally be cured if treated in time with antivirals.

Catheryn Andrews, who is cluster lead nurse in charge of multiple teams, said that she was very impressed by the refugees' response. She also challenged some of the "misconceptions" people have about them.

She said: "I think it's important to recognise that many of these people are professionals. We had a doctor, teachers, an Afghan government adviser, even a neurosurgeon. People's perception of refugees is that they are coming here for a better life. But many are professionals coming here for safety.

"With all of the families there was always an English-speaking person. So they haven't come here being unable to communicate. There's always someone who can speak English.

"By the second session people were queuing up to take part. We even had to end the session with a long line still waiting because we physically couldn't fit in the sheer numbers that wanted to get involved.

"It's been really humbling and very emotional. Many of the nurses said they had to check their emotions several times because they were so touched by what they saw."

The screenings were all part of Change Grow Live's aim to eradicate Hep C entirely. They say that London is on track to be the first city in the world to do so and, if they can help it, the rest of the UK will shortly follow. The NHS aims to achieve this by 2025.

Jackie Webley, regional Hepatitis C coordinator for Change Grow Live, said that awareness was key to clamping down on the virus. She was also impressed by the Afghans' eagerness to take part in the screenings.

She added: "The fact they were so willing and happy to take part was really lovely. They were so keen to look after themselves and their families in a way that we don't see as much over here.

"We're screening these people because it's simply good medical practice, not because they are any more likely to be injecting drugs.

"As the largest drug and alcohol service providers in the area, we have the capacity to have a meaningful impact on the issue.

"I hope that other local health teams will take this as a best practice model. Not just for refugees but for any communities or places that are at risk.

"It's important for people to understand the risks of the virus, versus the relative ease of treatment, and to understand that testing is available for anyone. Anyone can go to their GP for tests. If they think they are at risk then they should get a test."

Anyone seeking help or guidance should call The Hepatitis C Trust Helpline on: 020 7089 6221 from 10:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday. Or email: [email protected]