Dame Anita Roddick, 64,-veteran businesswoman and public campaigner, has made known the fact that she is suffering from the chronic liver disease, Hepatitis C.
Dame Anita known worldwide for her company, the Body Shop, which she sold to L'Oreal, says she was infected with the virus in 1971 via infected blood, during the birth of her daughter.
AdvertisementThe businesswoman who is well known for her indefatigable campaigning has decided to take on the government's policies or lack of them, on Hepatitis C.
She says: "I am astounded that the Government has spent £40 million on telling the public about the switch-over to digital TV, but only £3 million on raising awareness of hepatitis C, a serious condition that can have a massive impact on people's quality of life and ultimately kill them.
I'm not sure what that says about government priorities, but I do know it means that people aren't getting tested, diagnosed and treated."
Dame Anita has become a patron of the Hepatitis C Trust and is welcomed by Charles Gore the founder, who says that he is "delighted that someone so dynamic with such a history of fighting passionately for important causes has agreed to support us".
People infected with hepatitis C often show no symptoms initially-hence called the 'silent killer', but long-term consequences can include liver damage such as liver hardening or cirrhosis, and cancer.
Men are more than twice as likely to be infected with the disease as women.
The virus is transmitted by infected body fluids, and drug-users who share needles are particularly at risk.
The need for greater awareness is urgent. Estimates of the numbers infected in the UK vary from 200,000 to twice that.
Yet, despite a campaign launched by the Government, the numbers coming forward for testing have fallen, to little more than 1,000 a quarter.
The disease is treatable with drugs if detected early but many are diagnosed late and it is already the main cause of liver transplants.
A Department of Health spokesman says: "We recognize hepatitis C as an important public health issue. That is why we have set a clear national framework for action to tackle the virus.
"A key factor in improving prevention, diagnosis and treatment is raising awareness, and we are funding a number of ongoing campaigns.
These include a hepatitis C information pack for GPs and practice nurses, a new national free phone information line and advertorials in consumer magazines. "
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