A WOMAN who is fighting fit after a successful battle against Hepatitis C is on a mission to raise awareness about the deadly disease.
Mother-of-four Shabana Begum is teaming up with nurse Siobhan Fahey - who helped treat her - to spread the word to communities in Pakistan.
The pair are planning to travel to the country for two weeks next Spring in a bid to dispel myths about how the disease is spread.
Shabana, 39, who has been clear of the virus since October 2004, said: "There is a lot of stigma and people don't like to talk about it.
"People think it is similar to HIV and think it is dirty.
"But it can be passed on through piercings or even by visiting barbers shops where they use cut-throat razors.
"It is a blood virus and is very common in third world countries."
Single mother Shabana, of Eastlands, Almondbury, found out she was suffering Hepatitis C two years ago.
The trained beauty therapist - who has lived in countries including Saudi Arabia where Hepatitis C rates are high - visited her doctor for a blood test after months of feeling tired and unwell.
Tests on her liver showed she had been carrying the virus for at least 15 years.
She still does not know how she contracted it but all her family have been given the all-clear.
She said: "I was devastated.
"It was upsetting knowing I couldn't continue with my life.
"But I tried to stay positive because I have responsibilities."
Shabana - who works at the Thornton Lodge Neighbourhood Learning Centre - underwent a harrowing six-month course of treatment, similar to chemotherapy.
She said: "My hair fell out in clumps and I lost a lot of weight.
"Some days I didn't even have the energy to lift a cup of tea.
"I was lucky because I had a lot of support from my family."
The illness - which is estimated to affect one in every 200 people in the UK - can lead to severe liver failure if left untreated.
It is thought 90% of sufferers do not know they are carrying the disease.
Now cured, Shabana is determined to raise awareness.
She has already raised £300 for the Halifax-based support group by holding a community event.
And she hopes her visit to Pakistan will encourage more people to be tested.
Siobhan, a viral hepatitis clinical nurse specialist for Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust, said the trip would also be a fact finding mission.
She said: "Many of the clients I work with here, frequently visit or were born in countries like Pakistan.
"We are hoping to teach people in various hospitals and community settings out there.
"But we will also be going there with our ears to the ground to find out how Hepatitis C is spread in Pakistan. That will help us advise people here how to avoid it."