Tuesday Mar. 21
2:00 – 3:30 p.m. ET || 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. CT || 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. MT || 11:00 – 12:30 p.m. PT
The discovery of over 200 new HIV diagnoses in Indiana’s small, rural Scott County over the course of 2015 was a major wake up call for many about the dangers of ignoring the HIV prevention needs of people who inject drugs. The massive number of new cases in Scott County coupled with the ongoing epidemic of injection drug use in rural America significantly changed the political landscape around HIV prevention in the past few years, leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify 220 other counties that could be vulnerable to similar HIV “outbreaks.”
The situation in Scott County led to substantive policy change in December of 2015 when the Republican-led Congress quietly reversed their stance on a federal ban barring funding from being spent on syringe access programs (SAPs) – a change that had long been sought by HIV prevention advocates. How do we holistically address the needs of these communities beyond SAPs? How do we best involve affected communities within these responses?
Join Treatment Action Group, Harm Reduction Coalition, Indiana Minority Health Coalition, and Project Cultivate for a webinar that will consult with some local and state leaders in the response to the situation in southern Indiana, and discuss with Harm Reduction Coalition how best to implement a comprehensive and community-led response to HIV, Hepatitis C, and injection drug use in rural America.
HIV Prevention Research and Policy Coordinator, Treatment Action Group
Dr. Carrie Ann Lawrence
Assistant Researcher, Indiana School of Public Health – Bloomington
Project Director, Project Cultivate
Director of Public Policy & Engagement
Indiana Minority Health Coalition
Deputy Director of Planning and Policy
Harm Reduction Coalition
Approximately 3 to 5 million people in the United States are living with chronic hepatitis C, an infection that causes inflammation and scarring in the liver. Heavy alcohol use, fatty liver, autoimmune diseases, among other, can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, but the hepatitis C virus is the most common cause. If left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can cause scarring of the liver that results in cirrhosis which in turn results in long-term health problems, including liver failure, liver cancer and death. This danger is compounded by the fact that many infected people aren’t aware they have the disease because they don’t feel sick or experience symptoms. Unlike hepatitis A and hepatitis B, for which vaccines exist, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
But there is some good news: Hepatitis C can now be cured. There are several effective medications for it, and if it’s caught early and treated, people with the disease can live a normal life. The key is finding it early.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma associated with hepatitis C, and our patients often struggle with telling their loved ones they have it. These patients assume that if they have hepatitis C, they did something bad, as the most common cause is injection drug use. The truth is, if a person tests positive for hepatitis C, it doesn’t mean he or she is a drug addict; there are several ways people can get the disease. Some people are born with it; others become infected through a blood transfusion or a needlestick with infected blood.
Congress made headlines last month by approving a funding measure to avert the looming government shutdown. But the measure doesn’t just keep federal agencies funded until next fall. Buried within the 2000-plus page bill is a truly historic development for veterans battling the nation’s deadliest blood-borne disease.
Veterans, especially those of my era who served in and around Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, experience hepatitis C infection rates that are twice as high as our civilian counterparts. Yet previously, too many people who tested positive for hepatitis C preferred to forego treatment and risk cirrhosis, hepatic cancer, liver damage, and/or organ failure, rather than undergo the harsh and largely ineffective regimen of chemotherapy required to attempt to rid their bodies of the virus.
Fortunately, an unprecedented advancement in the treatment of hepatitis C has brought new hope to those living with this potentially fatal virus. Less than two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved several new treatments with cure rates of up to 98 percent, and few – if any – side effects.