The MUHC Foundation & The Rossy Foundation fund a project to eradicate hepatitis C in Montreal

A major donation from The Rossy Foundation to the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Foundation is funding a community-driven program, Montréal sans HépC, that will make Montreal the first city in North America to eradicate hepatitis C.

“The future of health care lies in innovative research and collaboration, of which Montréal sans HépC is a prime example. The Rossy Foundation is pleased to support this promising initiative in the treatment and prevention of hepatitis C.”

— Stephanie Rossy, Vice-Chair of The Rossy Foundation

Montréal sans HépC was created to address the lack of awareness and negative stigma around hepatitis C (HCV), a form of viral hepatitis that affects 71 million people worldwide. In Canada, where at least 250,000 people are infected, HCV reduces life expectancy more than any other infectious disease, including HIV. Despite these jarring statistics, modern medicine has made it so that HCV is relatively easy to cure, which points to a larger issue: social stigma, lack of awareness, and barriers to care.

“With the rapid developments in science, treating hepatitis C has gotten a lot easier than it used to be. In most cases, HCV treatment is as simple as taking one or two pills a day, with virtually zero side effects. It’s important to note that Montréal sans HépC isn’t just about curing the physical symptoms of HCV, but about empowering patients with knowledge and working to end the stigma.”

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

This collaborative project is made up of three physician-scientists from top hospitals in Montreal, Dr. Marina Klein, Research Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the MUHC, Dr. Christina Greenaway, an Infectious diseases specialist and Research Scientist at the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology at the Lady Davis Research Institute, Jewish General Hospital, and Dr. Julie Bruneau, Addiction Medicine physician at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) and scientist at the Research centre of the CHUM. This powerful alliance between Montreal’s top infectious disease and Addiction specialists is establishing Montreal as a leader the treatment and prevention of hepatitis C.

“In 2024, no one should be dying from a curable disease. This is why we’ve partnered with 16 community organizations to create grassroots interventions tailored to underserved, at-risk groups. Fighting the stigma surrounding hepatitis C is about empowering Montrealers and increasing the quality and quantity of health care in the city, which will undoubtedly have a reverberating effect worldwide.”

— Dr. Julie Bruneau, Clinical scientist, Addiction Medicine, CHUM, and Canada Research Chair on Integrated Care for People Who Use Drugs

Hepatitis C presents a unique challenge because despite its high cure rate (95%), common misconceptions lead to low testing rates. In the latter half of the 20th century, many people were exposed to the virus due to unsanitary health care practices. Despite this fact, there is a stigma that the virus is associated with intravenous drug use, leading to at-risk people not getting tested. Getting tested is very much a way to empower Montrealers, and this is why Montréal sans HépC is going directly into communities to raise awareness.

“Historically underserved communities, like Indigenous peoples, refugees, and those facing addiction or homelessness unfortunately experience higher rates of HCV, but this doesn’t limit the disease to these populations. The reality is that many Canadians born between 1945 and 1975 were exposed to the virus due to lax rules surrounding health care practices like blood transfusions and equipment sterilisation. There are many people who could benefit from being tested.”

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

The reason these historically underserved groups experience higher rates of HCV is because they face significant barriers to care. To address this, Montréal sans HépC is utilizing a comprehensive strategy that blends innovative research with community-driven advocacy, with a particular emphasis on risk awareness.

“At its core, Montréal sans HépC is an initiative built on equity and a desire to make the health care system more inclusive. In fact, the MUHC is part of a global movement to make health care more accessible, and this begins by working closely with underserved communities and gaining their trust. The MUHC Foundation is especially grateful to The Rossy Foundation for supporting this transformative initiative, which is changing the face of hepatitis C in Montreal.”

— Marie-Hélène Laramée, President and CEO, MUHC Foundation

An update regarding Bill 15 and the creation of Santé Québec