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    HomeNewsWest Hollywood Hepatitis C Educational Forum is Available on WeHoTV

    West Hollywood Hepatitis C Educational Forum is Available on WeHoTV

    The City of West Hollywood hosted a free Hepatitis C Community Educational Forum, on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. The moderated panel discussion with physicians and public health policy experts is available for viewing on the City’s WeHoTV YouTube channel www.youtube.com/wehotv.

    The panel discussion, moderated by Hernán Molina, MPA, Governmental Affairs Liaison for the City of West Hollywood, includes the following speakers:

    • Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, MD, MPH, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases and Population and Public Health Sciences and former CDC medical epidemiologist, and San Francisco City and County Deputy Health Officer;
    • Prabhu Gounder, MD, medical epidemiologist with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health overseeing surveillance and outbreak investigations for viral hepatitis, healthcare-associated infections, and respiratory diseases including influenza; and
    • Brian Risley, MFA, Manager of the HIV/Hep C Health, HIV & Older Adults and Women Together Programs at APLA Health, and Co-Chair of the Hepatitis C Task Force for Los Angeles County.

    Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). If left untreated, HCV can lead to serious health complications, including liver cancer, cirrhosis, and death. The virus usually spreads when someone comes into contact with blood from an infected person. A great majority of people become infected with HCV by sharing needles, syringes, or any other equipment used to prepare and inject drugs. While uncommon, hepatitis C can spread during sex, though men who have sex with men (MSM) with HIV have the highest risk of acquiring HCV sexually, and MSM on PrEP are at elevated risk. Approximately 10% of new HCV cases reported are among MSM.

    Hepatitis C can spread when getting tattoos or body piercings in unlicensed facilities, informal settings, or with non-sterile equipment. Many people who are newly infected with HCV do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. Approximately 20% of people newly infected with HCV can clear the virus in the first six months; however, a majority of people develop chronic hepatitis C, which is a lifelong infection that stays in the body.

    Testing for HCV, which is the only way to know if the virus is present, is very important for those groups most at risk of infection. An antibody test will reveal if a person has been infected with the hepatitis C virus — either recently or in the past. If there is a positive antibody test result, another blood test is needed to tell if the infection remains active or if it was a past infection and cleared on its own.

    New cases of HCV have been on the rise nationally, including in the state of California. From 1994 to 2018, there were 714,737 new chronic cases of HCV reported to the California Department of Public Health. In 2018, Los Angeles County had the highest number of newly reported chronic HCV cases among non-incarcerated people in the state of California. There are currently 2.4 million people in the United States living with HCV. In recent years, HCV has been related to more deaths than HIV. As there is no vaccine to prevent HCV, the only effective way to prevent getting infected is to avoid contact with infected blood, especially through sharing needles or syringes. There are new and highly effective direct-acting drugs available that have a nearly 100 % cure rate.

    A high percentage of individuals who are aware of their HCV+ status do not seek treatment. According to a September 21, 2022 report by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), only one in three HCV+ patients who have insurance seek timely treatment, and patients who are covered by MediCal are 46% less likely to receive treatment, even though HCV medications are fully covered.

    A recent survey of 533 cases in Los Angeles County’s Service Planning Area 4, which includes West Hollywood, shows that 84% of patients were aware of their HCV+ status but approximately 70% had not accessed treatment. This City of West Hollywood-hosted panel will seek answers as to why people are not accessing treatment when highly effective medicine is available; explore outreach conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the State’s public health agency, and examine best practices for cities to increase awareness of the presence of HCV, to educate about the effective treatments available, and to connect HCV+ individuals to treatment.

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    Paulo Murillo
    Paulo Murillohttps://wehotimes.com
    Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist. Murillo began his professional writing career as the author of “Love Ya, Mean It,” an irreverent and sometimes controversial West Hollywood lifestyle column for FAB! newspaper. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, which include the “Hot Topic” column in Frontiers magazine, where he covered breaking news and local events in West Hollywood. He can be reached at [email protected]
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