What is hepatitis C and why are so many people not getting treatment?

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a sick man in bed

Of the 1.7 million people diagnosed with hepatitis C in the United States between 2013 and 2022, only about a third (34%) can be considered “cured.” This is the result of a data study which found that many people do not have access to treatment. The high prices of drugs may limit their availability.

As if this weren’t enough, the CDC estimates that about 40% of hepatitis C patients in the US are unaware of their status. They have no idea of ​​the serious damage it can do to their body.

A breakthrough drug for hepatitis C became available in the early 1990s. However, as this survey shows, a worrying number of American citizens have been unable to take advantage of it. However, as this survey shows, a worrying number of American citizens have not been able to take advantage of it.

“Extremely low”

Carolyn Wester, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Viral Hepatitis Division, called the 34% cure rate “surprisingly low” at a recent press conference to announce the results. Those aged 20 to 29 were the least likely to be free of the virus.

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Half of the 1.7 million people with hepatitis C had commercial health insurance. The other 23% were covered by other payers, including self-payers, 11% by Medicaid, 9% by unspecified payers, and 8% by Medicare.

Those insured through “other payer” were more likely to fall into the “uncovered” camp. Those most likely to recover were the oldest and those covered by commercial insurance plans.

Vester says some insurance plans restrict coverage for hepatitis C medication. Or require “hard prior authorization” before treatment can begin. Or they require “hard prior permission” before starting treatment.

“All of these restrictions can delay or even restrict access to these life-saving drugs,” he added.

“Overcoming these obstacles can mean the difference between life and death. All hepatitis C patients deserve a chance to be cured.”

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by alcohol and other toxins or by a virus. The main subgroups are A, B and C.

Hepatitis A is the mildest form of the disease and most people recover with or without treatment. There are vaccines that protect against hepatitis A and B. However, there is no vaccine for C, the most severe form of the disease.

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Hepatitis C is caused by a virus and is often referred to as the “silent killer”. This is because symptoms (fatigue, abdominal pain, fever, jaundice, dark urine) only appear when significant liver damage has occurred and this can take years.

However, just because you do not experience symptoms does not mean that you should postpone treatment. The virus is silently destroying your liver and setting you up for future health problems.

Most people who become infected with the virus develop chronic hepatitis C. It is one of the leading causes of liver transplant and liver cancer. However, the CDC states that, if detected early, hepatitis C is “curable in more than 95% of cases.”

Why should gays care?

Gay men are disproportionately represented in hepatitis statistics. For example, they account for about 20% of all new cases of hepatitis B.

Blood-to-blood contact is the main route of transmission of hepatitis C. A trace amount is sufficient for transmission. Poor infection control has led to epidemics in health facilities, while drug users are at risk from needle or syringe sharing. Tattoo artists and body piercers have also been linked to cases of failing to properly sterilize their equipment.

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Hepatitis experts also warn that anyone who shares bills or straws to smoke cocaine should consider getting tested. The nasal passages are rich with blood capillaries, and a small amount of blood in a straw is sufficient to spread the hepatitis C virus.

It was believed that hepatitis C is not sexually transmitted. However, it is now accepted that some sexual transmission can occur, especially if there is a risk of bleeding.

The number of cases of sexual transmission may be relatively small, but you are at higher risk of getting hepatitis C if you engage in fisting, rough sex, sharing sex toys, or group sex.

For example, if you put a sex toy inside someone who has hepatitis C and a small amount of blood gets on the toy, and then you put the toy inside yourself or another person, transmission can occur. Is.

Your doctor may not ask you detailed questions about your sex life, and you may be reluctant to provide those details. However, if you have questions, ask your doctor about getting tested. You can live with hepatitis C for decades before getting sick, but the sooner you are diagnosed and given medication, the better.

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