Scotiabank donates $1.35M to create a Montreal without hepatitis C

The transformative gift supports Montréal sans HépC, an ambitious community-based program to prevent and cure hepatitis C cases in Montreal.

Montreal, May 12, 2023— Viral hepatitis is one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, affecting 58 million people worldwide. In Canada, Hepatitis C reduces life expectancy more than any other infectious disease, including HIV. And Hepatitis C is the only chronic viral infection that can be cured. A new $1.35 million gift from Scotiabank to the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Foundation is helping to fund Montréal sans HépC, an innovative new program that aims to eliminate hepatitis C in Montreal through community-based advocacy and health care. The goal is to make Montreal one of the first cities in the world to stop the transmission of the infection.

“We are proud to invest in life-changing health initiatives that help to break through the barriers that keep people in our communities from reaching their full potential,” says Meigan Terry, SVP and Chief Sustainability, Social Impact and Communications Officer at Scotiabank. “Through ScotiaRISE, we are pleased to take part in supporting the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Foundation and Montréal sans HépC to advance this innovative community-based advocacy and health care initiative.”

Montréal sans HépC has an ambitious goal: it plans to completely eliminate hepatitis C infections in Montreal by working closely with affected communities in affected communities, and tailor support to their needs. Led by Dr. Marina Klein, Research Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Chronic Viral Illness Service at the MUHC, Dr. Julie Bruneau, drug addiction clinical scientist at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), and Dr. Christina Greenaway, Professor of Medicine at McGill Universityand a leader in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Jewish General Hospital, the initiative has partnered with 16 community organizations to create grassroots interventions tailored to underserved, at-risk groups: Indigenous communities, immigrants, prisoners, people experiencing homelessness, men who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs.

“Hepatitis C impacts our most vulnerable patients the hardest. They're often living with a lot of challenges and have difficulty accessing care. With Montréal sans HépC, we're finding new ways to bring these people care so they can be diagnosed and cured. We believe that our community-based approach will help us eliminate hepatitis C in Montreal.”

—Dr. Marina Klein, Research Director, Division of Infectious Diseases and Chronic Viral Illness Service, MUHC

Hepatitis C is a chronic infection of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis, an impairment of liver function caused by severe scarring that can be deadly. Hep C is treatable in 95% of cases, but many individuals don’t seek treatment because of the stigma surrounding the disease or simply because they are unaware of the risk. Even baby boomers are unaware of their increased risk due to improper sterilization of surgical and dental equipment before 1990. It is also much more likely to affect vulnerable populations, such as Indigenous communities, immigrants and refugees, who often face significant barriers to health care.

“I believe strongly in tailored and quality health care access for all. With Montréal sans HépC, we can reduce barriers to care for some of Montreal’s most vulnerable inhabitants. Hepatitis C is curable—and curing Hepatitis C contributes to reducing transmission, a key element to HCV elimination.”

—Dr. Julie Bruneau, Clinical scientist, Addiction Medicine, CHUM; and Canada Research Chair in Addiction Medicine

Montréal sans HépC has partnered with the Centre associatif polyvalent d’aide hépatite C (CAPHAC) to reach people living with hepatitis C in their own communities. CAPHAC has built the trust of Montreal’s most vulnerable communities, and the partnership will ensure individuals with untreated hep C can receive care without judgment or the intimidation of a traditional medical setting.

“Our organization has been working in the field of hepatitis C for 20 years. Montréal sans Hép C will allow us to complete this final stretch towards elimination of the disease. Together, we will seek the means to screen and treat communities that face the greatest barriers in accessing care. We are extremely grateful for Scotiabank’s generosity in championing this public health challenge.”

—Laurence Mersilian, Executive Director, Centre associatif polyvalent d’aide hépatite C.

Thanks to Scotiabank, Dr. Klein and Dr. Bruneau’s work will make Montreal one of the first cities in the world to eliminate hepatitis C and serve as a model for addressing health needs of vulnerable populations.

“Montreal sans HépC brings MUHC/RI-MUHC’s internationally renowned expertise in infectious diseases out into the community. It is a perfect example of how collaboration between doctors, researchers, patient advocates, social workers, lawyers, policy makers, and community workers can change the course of vulnerable people’s lives and medicine. We are grateful to Scotiabank for its generous gift.”

—Dr. Lucie Opatrny, President and Executive Director, MUHC

“The stigma surrounding hepatitis C means thousands of individuals don’t receive the care they need. No one can build – or rebuild – a solid life without solid health care. The MUHC Foundation is incredibly proud to support Dr. Klein and Dr. Bruneau’s work to ensure the health of our city’s most vulnerable. Their concerted efforts will leave no hiding place, no lurking reservoir of infections left for hepatitis C in Montreal. Years of careful planning will finally unfold into action. We thank Scotiabank for their transformative gift.”

—Julie Quenneville, President and CEO, MUHC Foundation

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