CDC’s first estimates on hepatitis C treatment initiation, which will be presented at the 2021 American Association of the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) meeting later this week, show the number of people who initiated treatment in the U.S. declined from 2015 to 2020.

The study found more than 843,000 people initiated curative hepatitis C treatment during this time period, an average of 120,000 people each year. This is far short of the 260,000 people that need to be treated annually to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030, as estimated by the National Academies of Science and Medicine in 2015. CDC estimates about 2.4 million people were living with hepatitis C in the U.S. between 2013-2016.

New challenges for hepatitis C treatment have emerged

Previous research shows hepatitis C testing and treatment declined in 2020, likely due to major COVID-19 disruptions including: 

  • Stay-at-home orders that suspended or delayed many routine healthcare visits
  • Avoidance of seeking medical and preventative services in a health care setting, particularly in emergency departments and primary care settings, where most hepatitis C testing takes place
  • Reduced operation of Syringe Service Programs (SSPs), which in many cases provide hepatitis testing services and linkage to care

The opioid crisis continues to shift the course of the hepatitis C epidemic

Acute hepatitis infections reported to CDC quadrupled from 2009 to 2019, with injection drug use the most reported risk factor for hepatitis C (67% in 2019). Connecting more people to hepatitis testing and treatment – especially people who inject drugs – is critical to saving lives and preventing transmission of this deadly, but curable, infection.

Since 2020, CDC recommends hepatitis C screening for all adults once, for pregnant women during every pregnancy, and periodic testing for all people with risk factors.

Additional resources can be found on the NCHHSTP newsroom.

View report/more information here.

Last Updated on December 3, 2021 by HepFree NYC

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