NYC launches initiative to control hepatitis C prevalence in the city

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Monday announced the launch of an initiative to combat Hepatitis C infection, a disease which now accounts for more annual deaths than HIV/AIDS.

"This is a very hopeful time for persons living with hepatitis C," Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. "After many years in which the infection was very difficult to treat, hepatitis C can now be cured. We also expect that medications that are easier to use and even more effective will be available in just a few months, and many other promising drugs should be approved for use in the next few years."

The initiative is titled Hepatitis C in New York City: State of the Epidemic and Action Plan. It is estimated approximately 146,500 people in New York are carrying HCV and only half are aware that they have the infection. Most will not experience symptoms until 10 to 30 years after infection, when life-threatening conditions, such as liver disease, develop as a result of the initial infection.

"Unfortunately, roughly half of those living with HCV infection do not know that they are infected," Farley added. "With new opportunities to treat and cure this disease, all health care providers in New York City must become familiar with current recommendations for testing and treatment."

The new initiative seeks to educate the public and health care workers about the importance of getting screened for HCV early. The Health Department also seeks to develop policies to promote accessible testing and treatment for HCV.