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Hepatitis C home test kits support bid to eliminate disease

 Professor Aiden McCormick, HSE Clinical Lead for the Hepatitis C Programme standing with folded arms in front of a sign that reads' Hepatitis C Treatments have changed'

Professor Aiden McCormick, HSE Clinical Lead for the Hepatitis C Programme



Over 4,000 at-home hepatitis C testing kits have been ordered and delivered since the HSE home test service went live in April.

Thousands of people at risk of hepatitis C are now able to order a test to their home, as the HSE steps up its bid to eliminate the deadly disease.

Launched last April, the discreet, at-home testing kits, are free to order online from the HSE as part of the HSE’s Hepatitis C Treatment Programme, which has already treated over 7,000 people, 95% of whom are now cured.


The test involves a finger prick test, with a tiny blood sample dropped into a test tube, which is posted in a pre-paid envelope to a lab for analysis. Those who require follow-up treatment will then be contacted and referred to a participating clinic or hospital. Treatment for hepatitis C is free and tablets are effective and well-tolerated, with over 95% of people cured in as little as 8 to 12 weeks. 

The rollout of the at-home test is one of a range of measures undertaken by the National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme aimed at eliminating hepatitis C in Ireland by 2030 - in line with the 2030 World Health Organization commitment.

The National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme estimates that up to 3,000 people in Ireland may currently have the blood-borne virus, which infects the liver, and if left untreated can cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage, leading to cirrhosis, possible liver failure, and cancer – as well as a risk of spreading the disease to others.


The new home-testing kit could help people unknowingly living with hepatitis C to get a life-saving diagnosis and treatment sooner. The new self-testing kits aim to reach people who may not be engaged with other services such as drug and alcohol support, as well as people who may have potentially been exposed to the virus in the past, through previous injecting drug use, or they could have come into contact with infected blood through medical procedures, blood transfusions and blood products, or equipment used in cosmetic services. 

Professor Aiden McCormick, HSE Clinical Lead for the Hepatitis C Programme, explained that “one of our biggest challenges is that as patient numbers get smaller, remaining hepatitis C cases are harder to find and treat. Therefore, it’s vital that we offer a free, easy-to-access home-test – especially for those who have been exposed to the virus but are reluctant to come forward. This latest tool is critical to ensuring more people can receive the treatment they need, or peace of mind, at the earliest opportunity. The results of these tests will help contribute to understanding the prevalence of hepatitis C.”

Marie O’Grady, Programme Lead, HSE National Hepatitis C Programme added that “by offering this new at-home testing service for hepatitis C, we are seeing more people come forward to get tested. This is helping us ensure no one slips through the cracks. The quicker you get diagnosed, the quicker you can start life-saving treatments. I strongly urge anyone who feels they may be at risk of hepatitis C to order your test on today even if you don’t have any symptoms.”

Over 17,000 cases of hepatitis C have been notified in Ireland since 2004. Significant work has been done over many years to identify hepatitis C infections in populations known to be at higher risk such as people who inject drugs, people who are homeless or in prison, international protection applicants (asylum seekers) and people who received blood or blood products in the past. Testing uptake, case ascertainment, and treatment uptake are likely to be high in these groups. However, there are still likely to be undiagnosed cases of hepatitis C in Ireland and the new at-home testing service is an excellent resource for people who are reluctant to attend risk-based services or to request a test from their GP.

While annual hepatitis C notifications have declined over the past decade, relatively high numbers of infections are still being identified, with 480 cases reported in 2022. However, the age profile of notified cases has changed. The average age at notification for a case of hepatitis C in 2004 was 33 years. By 2022, this had increased to 45 years, most likely indicating that people who may not have engaged with services in the past are now being screened and diagnosed. These cases have probably been infected for some time and the incidence of infection in Ireland is likely to be lower than indicated by the notification figures.