Howard Josepher lived with hepatitis C, a virus that can lead to chronic liver problems, for at least two decades before he was able to access the 90-day, $90,000 drug regimen that cured him in 2015. Josepher, 78, received his diagnosis in the 1990s but said he believes he contracted the virus from shared needles sometime around 1964, shortly before he stopped using heroin for good.
“In those days, we did not know or ever hear of or use a term called hepatitis,” said Josepher, co-founder and executive director of Exponents, a lower Manhattan community center serving people with substance abuse issues. He said at least one of his friends died from liver complications.
Now epidemiologists say the virus is spreading among a new generation of New Yorkers, driven by an increase in heroin use. An estimated 200,000 residents are living with hepatitis C—more than the number with HIV—and about half are unaware of their diagnosis, according to the epidemiologists.