FOSTER CITY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD) today announced HepConnect, a five-year, multi-million dollar initiative aimed at addressing the sharp increase in chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infections fueled by the nation’s opioid crisis. In partnership with the Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) and local organizations, the initiative will support evidence-based solutions to meet the needs of people most affected by the opioid crisis in Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the increase in injection drug use has led to a more than tripling of new HCV infections in greater Appalachia. The CDC reports that in central Appalachia, HCV infections rose 364 percent between 2006 and 2012. Currently, 2.4 million people are living with HCV in the United States and an estimated 50 percent of those infected aren’t aware they have the virus.
“The statistics on HCV are alarming, and not enough people are paying attention,” said Gregg Alton, Chief Patient Officer at Gilead. “There is an urgent need to address the intersecting epidemics of HCV and the country’s opioid crisis. Gilead’s mission is to address unmet medical needs and public health challenges, including hepatitis C, HIV and other diseases. HepConnect offers an opportunity for us to use our expertise and resources to support communities in need.”
HepConnect builds on Gilead’s long-term commitment and history of addressing HCV in impacted populations globally. HepConnect will prioritize three programmatic areas:
1. Expand Screening and Linkage to Care: Fighting rising HCV infection rates by testing for the virus and ensuring those impacted can access appropriate care.
2. Support Harm Reduction and Community Education: Opening doors to harm reduction services to all who need them to help reduce HCV transmission.
3. Activate Healthcare Infrastructure: Building resources, know-how and capacity in communities where the need is greatest.
“As we battle the scourge that is the opioid crisis, we must address the rise of Hepatitis C as a consequence. Hepatitis C is curable, yet impacts over 40,000 people in the Commonwealth,” said Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. “It is imperative we continue educating people on this disease. Prevention and seamless coordination are key to eradicating this in the commonwealth. We genuinely appreciate Gilead taking this effort as seriously as we do.”
In December 2018, Gilead launched a call for proposals from national and regional organizations with harm reduction expertise. The Harm Reduction Coalition was selected as the lead grantee because of its capacity to guide strategic planning across the program, provide technical assistance and manage grant opportunities that support harm reduction and community education work in the initiative’s target states.
“We are committed to ensuring these resources generate maximum impact by reaching organizations and programs operating on the front lines,” said Monique Tula, Executive Director at Harm Reduction Coalition. “We’re thrilled about Gilead’s commitment to innovation and proud to collaborate with them to deepen harm reduction work that will make a meaningful difference for people affected by HCV across greater Appalachia.”
About HepConnect Initiative
HepConnect is a five-year, multi-million dollar initiative to help address the increase in HCV infections in greater Appalachia, focused on expanding HCV screening, linking people to care, improving healthcare professional education and supporting evidence-based harm reduction services through partnerships. To learn more, visit www.hepconnect.com.
About Harm Reduction Coalition
Harm Reduction Coalition is a national advocacy and capacity-building organization that promotes the health and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by drug use. HRC advances policies and programs that help people address the adverse effects of drug use, including overdose, HIV, hepatitis C and incarceration. HRC maintains offices in New York, NY; Oakland, CA; and Washington, DC. www.harmreduction.org
About Gilead Sciences
Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and commercializes innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need. The company strives to transform and simplify care for people with life-threatening illnesses around the world. Gilead has operations in more than 35 countries worldwide, with headquarters in Foster City, California.
For more information on Gilead Sciences, please visit the company’s website at www.gilead.com, follow Gilead on Twitter (@GileadSciences) or call Gilead Public Affairs at 1-800-GILEAD-5 or 1-650-574-3000