Just 40 bucks to test for hep C

About two years ago Daryl Luster started pushing for universal testing for hepatitis C among Baby Boomers. Daryl is the president of board of the Pacific Hepatitis C Network and a Boomer himself. I met him at a Starbucks in Richmond, B.C., this week, and he told me about his year-long ordeal on interferon. He lost 30 pounds in the first two weeks. He was cured in 2011.

Daryl Luster, president of the Pacific Hepatitis C Netword, at Starbucks in Richmond, B.C.

Daryl Luster relaxes with a cup of java. Coffee is good for the liver.

Before that, he spent three years with symptoms. He says he looked like “a middle-aged businessman guy,” so his doctor never thought of testing him. But few Baby Boomers fit any stereotype, and it’s been a long time since they wore hippie beads or disco pants.

It’s also a wonder that 40 percent of those who are infected with hepatitis C don’t know it. Some 70 – 80 percent of them are Baby Boomers.

Daryl has been advocating for testing of all Baby Boomers, regardless of whether they feel pangs in their liver, have jaundice, or have memories of a risk-filled youth. Yet Canada—including the federal and provincial governments—has never pushed for wide-scale testing. “Why is this such a leap for Canada?” Daryl asks. “The first test costs about 40 bucks.”

That’s next to nothing compared with the cost of treating liver disease. With success rates for treatments edging up toward 100 percent, and with heavy side-effects becoming a rarity, it’s time for everyone to get tested—and cured.

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