May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19, 2018 was Hepatitis Testing Day. The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) has a long-standing commitment to providing health care and support services for low-income people living with HIV (PLWH) who are coinfected with hepatitis C. RWHAP observes Hepatitis Awareness Month and Hepatitis Testing Day to highlight the importance of testing and treating people coinfected with HIV and viral hepatitis.
Partly fueled by the opioid epidemic, new hepatitis C infections more than tripled between 2010 and 2016. Although advances in HIV care and treatment result in longer life expectancy for PLWH, those who are coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C still have a high risk of liver-related illness and death. Viral hepatitis progresses faster and causes more liver-related health problems among people living with HIV than among those who do not have HIV. Approximately 25% of people living with HIV in the U.S. are coinfected.
Recent advances in treatment make it possible to win the fight against hepatitis C and save lives. A simple blood test can detect hepatitis C infection years before symptoms develop, and the recently FDA-approved treatment options for hepatitis C are a game-changer in the field of hepatitis C care and treatment. For the first time, persons infected with hepatitis C can be cured with all-oral, once-daily treatment regimens that last 8-24 weeks and have minimal side effects. Experts recommend that all people living with HIV/HCV coinfection be tested for HCV and, if positive, considered for HCV treatment because being cured of HCV can prevent liver disease and liver cancer and greatly improve health outcomes.
Visit HRSA’s TARGET Center for more information and for valuable HIV/hepatitis C coinfection resources, and join the online conversation by following #HepAware on Facebook and Twitter.