Here I am, back on my soapbox, calling for people to get screened for the hepatitis C virus (HCV). More than 3 million Americans are infected with this virus and a majority of these people don’t even know it! It’s to those estimated 1.6 million infected but undiagnosed people that I plead with, once again, to get screened.
HCV can lead to scary consequences such as cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. The sooner one’s infection status is known, the sooner treatment can begin. Today’s treatments – with the FDA’s approval of protease inhibitors last year – offer the unprecedented potential of a meaningful cure for up to 70 percent of those infected with HCV. But that cure can’t be realized if someone doesn’t know they are infected.
Everyone age 40 and older should be screened for the hepatitis C virus, as well as (of course) anyone with a risk factor for HCV or potential exposure to this disease, such as:
- IV drug use
- Blood transfusion before 1992
- Unprotected sex with a known HCV-infected person or any questionable sexual encounter
- A needle stick from a potentially unsterile needle
- Nasal drug use
- Anyone who has lived with someone who has hepatitis C
Free Screenings Available
For some, the cost of the test is a barrier to getting screened for HCV. Rest assured that cost does not need to be part of the equation. There are many programs that offer low-cost or even free hepatitis screenings. Aside from being free, these screenings are quick and nearly painless. For example, New York City recently offered free screenings for 5,000 people with the rapid HCV test that provides results in just 20 minutes. Twenty other cities, including Chicago, Houston, St. Louis and Washington D.C., are following suit with their own free screening initiatives. Another option: offer to donate blood at your local blood bank and they will test it and notify you if it is positive for HCV.
Here at BioPlus we have a comprehensive hepatitis C treatment program available. We work with patients every step of the way with what can be a difficult but necessary treatment. Our latest statistics compiled from all our hepatitis C patients (including those on one of the new triple therapies) shows that 92.7 percent of our patients are compliant at discharge.
For even more free screening opportunities, check out the national non-profit organization Caring Ambassadors Hepatitis C Program (CAP-Hepatitis C). They offer a map here showing hundreds of testing facilities throughout the U.S. that all offer free or low-cost hepatitis C testing. There’s no reason not to get tested and get started on the road to recovery today.
Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO
OraQuick(R) HCV Tests to be Deployed in New York City Department of Health “Check Hep C NYC” Campaign. Press release. May 18, 2012.