Hepatitis C virus (HCV) continues to cause high mortality, with the rate of HCV-related deaths among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people more than double the national rate. However, there are reasons for optimism as we observe Hepatitis Awareness Month this year. AI/AN HCV mortality rates are dropping, in large part due to improved diagnosis and treatment. Plus, medications to cure this chronic disease are easier to access, and treatments are simple and have high cure rates. These factors create a scenario where more people can be treated locally in their Indian Health Service (IHS), tribal, or urban Indian health (I/T/U) clinic.
Further, HCV screening and treatment can be so effective that several Indigenous communities have their own HCV elimination programs. Globally, there is a goal to eliminate HCV by 2030, and the Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan provides a roadmap for doing so in the United States. Elimination programs could eventually stop the deaths caused by HCV, the nation’s leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants.
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