SHE struggled with her daily routine for over 20 years.
Often crying herself to sleep, Shabana Begum could not understand why she was always tired and suffering mood swings.
But finally after urging doctors to test her for Hepatitis C, the mum-of-four discovered she had been carrying the virus since she was a teenager and needed urgent chemotherapy.
At age 13, Shabana’s dad took her to Pakistan to visit family and learn about her culture.
While on the holiday she fell ill and went to see a local doctor.
After being given a jab and some medication, Shabana went to look at the bin where the doctor had stored the needle.
To her horror, she found a series of corroded needles bathing in shallow dirty water.
But as she felt no immediate side-effects, she thought nothing of it.
Shabana returned to Huddersfield where many years later she set up her own business as a beautician and had four children.
Daily life began to take its toll on her and she became ‘cranky’ and according to the Almondbury woman, her existence was ‘miserable’.
Shabana knew enough was enough and headed off to the doctors where she was given a series of tests – all of which came back negative and she was sent away.
When the problem failed to go away, she returned and was given an HIV and a Hepatitis C test.
The 46-year-old said: “When the tests came back and I was told I didn’t have HIV I was relieved – I didn’t think much of Hepatitis C.
“But they told me I needed to have urgent treatment and chemotherapy was what was needed for my type of Hepatitis.
“I had the treatment for six months which was very hard with four young children.
“My eldest child Sabba stayed in my bed with me for most nights and anytime I needed water she would get up instantly and she also took her three younger brothers to school.
“If undetected it can kill you.
“It is still a very taboo topic with the south Asian community and there is still a stigma behind it.
“If somebody in the family has it, other families won’t go close for fear of catching it.
“But I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not a drug user, I was very young.
“We need to raise awareness of it as people don’t realise how easy it is to catch, especially in the Muslim community, where babies have their heads shaved at birth and are circumcised – they are constantly in contact with razor blades.
“It doesn’t take much to check how clean they are or be wary of your health.
“I was one of the lucky ones and my treatment means that I no longer have the virus.
“But there are other forms of the virus that you cannot get rid of.
“If people are concerned they can go get tested by their local GP or at their local GUM clinic.
“It can be so easy to catch.”
Shabana, who is mum to Sabba, Saad, Omer and Usman took on the role of testing for Hepatitis C in Bradford last year.
She discovered that out of 100 people tested, four were carrying the virus.
She said: “Ultimately those tests saved their lives.
“While Huddersfield has a large Asian population who are particularly at risk of being infected with the virus, it is vital that everyone is aware of it, regardless of their ethnicity.
“Throughout the UK, a ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ attitude prevails and most people remain undiagnosed.”
Having given up her business, Shabana works for Bradford Council and the Hepatitis C Trust.
As part of World Hepatitis day today (Saturday), she is aiming to hold a Guinness World Record event at the Karmand Community Centre, Barkerend Road, Bradford, BD3 9EP from 11.30am to 12.30pm.
The Hepatitis C Trust’s free event aims to raise awareness about hepatitis C and supports a global effort to attempt a world record for the most people performing the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” actions in 24 hours at multiple venues around the world. Twenty four countries around the world will also be joining in.