May 19th, Hepatitis Testing Day, gives us an opportunity to educate, raise awareness, and promote testing in hopes of identifying the millions of people who are living with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) and are unaware of their status. Currently, half of all people living with chronic HCV and two-thirds of people living with chronic HBV are unaware of their status, thus demonstrating the importance of routine testing.
A recent NACCHO survey revealed that three-fourths of local health departments (LHDs) offer HCV screening, nearly two-thirds conduct linkage to care, and one in six provide HCV treatment. Additionally, more than half (59%) offer HBV screening/testing and linkage to care. LHDs are taking a coordinated approach to address the syndemic of substance use, HIV, STIs, and viral hepatitis. Many offer HBV and HCV screening/testing and other services in STI clinics, harm reduction settings, and correctional facilities.
Efforts to promote hepatitis testing must also ensure that people living with HBV and HCV can access care. In the United States, more than half of people who inject drugs have HCV, and the majority of cases are spread through injection drug use. Unfortunately, people who use drugs often face stigma, misinformation, and other barriers that deter them from seeking healthcare services. For example, many providers are unwilling to treat people for HCV if they are actively using drugs and insurers have historically limited treatment to patients who are sober and/or have severe liver damage.
To learn more about hepatitis in the United States, read NACCHO’s Hepatitis Awareness Month blog and visit CDC’s Hepatitis Awareness page. Follow @cdchep on Twitter for information about hepatitis resources, tools, publications, campaign updates, and events. Use the hashtags #HepAware, #hepatitis, #HepTestingDay, and #HepatitisElimination to join the conversation and share information on viral hepatitis.
To stay connected with us, sign up for monthly emails from the Division of Viral Hepatitis about new publications, recommendations, new materials or significant events. Sign up to receive NACCHO’s HIV, STI, & Viral Hepatitis Digest, a biweekly e-newsletter featuring the latest news, tools, and resources for local public health professionals working on HIV, STI, or viral hepatitis Programs.