Dawn Maker is the Program Manager at HealthHCV, an initiative of HealthHIV. Dawn was previously a Hepatitis C Community Educator, where she provided individualized one-on-one support, education, and linkage to care services for anyone that was positive for hepatitis C, as well as conducting education and training for providers.
Exploring the Landscape of Hepatitis C among Minority Populations
July 25 is African American Hepatitis C Action Day. This is a day to understand the burden of disease among this community and provide increased advocacy, education, and awareness. HealthHCV understands this need and through its training, education, and awareness efforts, it works to address HCV among minority populations. We ask that you join us on this day of action to confront HCV in African Americans and minority populations. Together, we can cure HCV!
Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus that affects the liver. Currently, there are more than 4.5 million chronically infected people in the United States, affecting many populations and reaching across all boundaries. It is a silent epidemic and often undiagnosed. Hepatitis C affects a wide array of people with injection drug users, baby boomers, and African Americans having some of the highest rates of infection. According to CDC, minority populations, including African Americans, Latinos, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans, continue to see increased incidence and prevalence of HCV infection.
More people are now being cured of HCV infection due to advances in cure therapy. Yet despite these advances challenges remain, especially regarding minority populations. African Americans are twice as likely to be infected with HCV when compared to the overall US population. Disease course, response to treatment, and virologic outcomes all contribute to a greater disease burden. Studies have shown that African Americans may clear HCV less efficiently than other ethnic groups and are less likely to respond to current HCV therapies. Therefore, while advances in cure therapy are leading to an increase in diagnosis and treatment, certain minority groups are still adversely and disproportionately affected with a greater burden of disease.
Lower testing rates, barriers to accessing cure therapy, and lack of provider awareness and education are reasons for low cure rates. Increasing awareness, advocating for increased testing, and advancing access to cure therapy are all needed. HealthHIV started HealthHCV four years ago to address these challenges and works across program sectors to improve the health of those living with Hepatitis C. HealthHCV is a national hepatitis C-focused initiative of HealthHIV and provides education, advocacy, and research. In recognition of National Hepatitis Testing Day, HealthHCV launched its testing campaign: “20/20: A Clear Vision for the Future,” in which HealthHCV will partner with primary care settings to increase hepatitis C testing by 20 percent at each site by the year 2020. Additionally, HealthHCV created the HCV Training and Certification Program™ to increase provider education and awareness on hepatitis C. Our annual “State of HCV Care™” survey has provided further insight on the landscape of HCV care and highlights barriers often encountered by patients and providers. The annual survey is distributed by HealthHCV and leads to further advocacy and education efforts.