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Hepatitis C on the Rise
Howard Brown Health Issues Statement on
Newly Released Hepatitis C Data from the CDC
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released preliminary data showing that hepatitis C–related deaths are at an all-time high in the United States. The data finds that more Americans now die as a result of hepatitis C infection than from 60 other infectious diseases reported to the CDC – including HIV, tuberculosis, and pneumococcal disease – combined.
In response, Dr. Magda Houlberg, Chief Clinical Officer for Howard Brown Health, release the following statement:
“Howard Brown Health has been working to increase the numbers of patients screened for hepatitis C (HCV) and to use the most up-to-date treatment approaches for the people we serve. The numbers released by the CDC are very concerning, especially considering risk factors prevalent in the LGBTQ and other communities. Howard Brown uses a unique, multidisciplinary approach to HCV screening and treatment, which includes screening in primary care and sexual health walk-in settings, nurse education, case management, and pharmacy support. With aggressive screening and a robust approach to treatment, we can decrease these numbers in the future.”
In 2015, Howard Brown Health screened 5,743 unique patients for HCV, with a positivity rate of 2.5%. Also in 2015, an HCV project team was formed, meeting weekly to review patients on treatment, or in queue for, treatment. All Howard Brown physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants participate in a training for community-based medical providers in effectively treating HCV in the primary care setting.
In 2015 Howard Brown’s HCV team served 192 patients living with active HCV, and cured 44 patients.
Factors that contribute to the spread of HCV include lack of access to healthcare, stigma, lack of availability of sterile needles and syringes for hormone treatment, outdated views, lack of available sterile needles and syringes for people who inject drugs, barriers to education and screening, sexual transmission, and poor insurance coverage.
Dr. Houlberg added, “We encourage people concerned about possible HCV infection or who need guidance exploring treatment options to consult medical experts.”
Howard Brown’s Walk-in Clinic offers access to screening on a sliding-scale fee structure six-days a week. Hours and other information are posted at howardbrown.org. Patients may also consult their provider on an appointment basis. Call 773-388-1600 to schedule an appointment.