As deaths from many communicable diseases continue to decline globally, deaths caused by viral hepatitis have now surpassed all other chronic infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Yet it is one of the few global health threats with easy solutions. Highly effective vaccines exist for hepatitis A and B. We now have a cure for hepatitis C. With these tools at our disposal, why aren’t we seeing an impact on the epidemic?
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major public health problem. Worldwide, about 70 million people are living with hepatitis C virus infection, with a higher prevalence in developing countries. In Canada, 210,753 to 461,517 people are infected with HCV, and an estimated 20 to 40 per cent of infections remain undiagnosed. Those born during the period of 1945 until 1965 have the highest rates of infection and, having acquired the virus decades ago, are now increasingly being diagnosed with serious liver-related illnesses, including liver failure and liver cancer and non-liver related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
The possible unintended consequences of the introduction of PrEP to the sex industry is something that has been discussed in international sex work advocacy since at least 2012. So, when I saw that new PrEP prescription guidelines for Canada were being drafted, stating that “sex-trade workers” were a “significant risk of having transmissible HIV,” I was troubled that there had been no community consultation whatsoever. National guidelines required a national convening.
The Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care (CTFPHC) released its HCV Screening Guidelines today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Monday. To the dismay of experts across Canada including hepatitis C specialists, advocacy groups, and stakeholders, the new screening guidelines ignore expert advice regarding who should be tested for Hep C, setting a dangerous public health policy where dollars come first and the health of Canadians comes last.
La transmission du VIH et du VHC constitue encore aujourd’hui un problème de santé publique de première importance. Certains comportements, comme l’usage de drogues par injection et par inhalation, entraînent des risques importants de transmission. En effet, selon les données de surveillance [i], 15 % des personnes qui vont dans les centres d’accès au matériel d’injection et d’inhalation sont infectées au VIH et 63 % au VHC.
The CATIE Blog hosts the views and opinions of people and organizations working and volunteering in Canada’s response to HIV and hepatitis C.