By Garrett Rose
May is designated as Hepatitis Awareness Month in the US. BCAP, along with other public health partners across the state, is working to shed light on what’s happening with Hepatitis C (HCV) in our state. Garrett Rose, BCAP’s HCV Prevention Coordinator, recently sat down with Karen Chappelow, Liver Health Connection’s Director of Community Outreach, to discuss what Coloradans can do to address the current HCV health crisis.
“National Hepatitis Month is important because so many people don’t know they’re living with HCV or that there is a cure,” says Karen, “and testing for this virus is not part of routine blood work.” The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 3.5 million persons living with HCV in the US. Most of these people don’t yet know they are living with this virus. HCV does not always present symptoms and can lay dormant in the human body for 10-20 years. “People avoid getting tested because they feel fine or don’t believe they have any risk factors. Any Baby Boomer or anyone who has snorted or injected drugs while sharing equipment should get tested for HCV,” urges Karen. Baby Boomers, born 1945-1965, make up 75% of all people living with HCV. In 2012, the CDC recommended all Baby Boomers be tested for HCV, even if no other symptoms or risk factors are present. Other risks identified by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) include:
- Receiving blood or blood products prior to 1992
- Receiving blood or blood products outside the US
- Undergoing hemodialysis
- Receiving a tattoo or piercing in a correctional facility
- Having a sexual partner of someone living with HCV
In the latest numbers from 2016, the CDC estimates that there were 41,200 new cases of acute HCV in the US, representing a 350% increase in HCV transmission from 2010. “Hepatitis is curable and treatment doesn’t look like it even did five years ago. Today, treatment is an oral supplement taken daily typically from 8-12 weeks with over a 95% cure rate,” says Karen. “Get tested if needed, and don’t let stigma stop you! Getting tested is easy and there are test counselors available to help you learn more about HCV.”
BCAP will be participating in National Hepatitis Testing Day on Friday, May 18th from 10am-5pm, and walk-ins are welcome! BCAP will be offering free and rapid HCV testing to anyone who reports one of the above risk factors. You can schedule your test with us year round by calling 303-444-6121 and asking to speak with a member of BCAP’s Prevention Department.
If you are living with Hepatitis and would like additional support, you also can call Liver Health Connection’s Hepatitis Helpline at: 1-800-522-HEPC(4372).