Patients should know about treatment options for hepatitis C.
Jackie Johnson never considered himself a risk-taker. In fact, he says, he had a pretty normal existence working as a manager of a Taco Bell in Dallas.
“My life was nothing crazy,” Johnson, 42, tells NationSwell. So it was an unexpected and devastating blow when he received a double-whammy diagnosis of HIV and the hepatitis C virus, or HCV, 12 years ago. “I was confused for three months. I tried to stay optimistic, but your body just goes through denial.”
Johnson can trace his transmission to one of two events: getting tattooed with a possibly unsterilized needle in 2006, or a sexual assault that happened around the same time. But no matter the method of infection, he was well aware that he was carrying two viruses that, at the time, were completely incurable.
There are thousands of cases like Johnson’s each year, where HIV transmission coincides with contracting hepatitis C. In the past decade, HCV has become a national health problem, with the Centers for Disease Control estimating that the number of new infections increased nearly threefold between 2010 and 2015. Much of the rise has been attributed to increased intravenous opioid use.
But in the past four years, new drugs that can cure most cases of HCV have become available. The problem: Many people in need of the cure — which can cost thousands of dollars — are the same people who depend on Medicaid, which has rolled back HCV treatments nationwide. And in addition, reaching the population most at risk for spreading HCV is a task that continues to elude health officials.
But in New York, a new plan that has shown success in an earlier incarnation is taking hold. If it works, it might just pave the way for other states looking to curb the rise of HCV infections.
|Read on: There’s a Cure for Hepatitis C, If Only Patients Could Access It|