Hepatitis C Infection among Young Injection Drug Users

By Dan Church, Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Hepatitis CIn the last year, focus has been on the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for a one-time hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibody test for all individuals born between 1945 and 1965. While this is important given recent trends in HCV-related mortality in this age cohort, there has been less attention on the need to continue risk-based screening due to the alarming trends of increased HCV transmission among young people who use drugs. This increase has been noted in a number of jurisdictions, including in Massachusetts, where the annual number of reported HCV infections among those 15 to 29 years of age has now exceeded those in the older age cohort. While the number of identified, confirmed acute HCV cases remains low, almost 2,000 cases of HCV infection have been reported each year in this younger age group since 2007 in Massachusetts alone. Most of these cases were likely exposed in the recent past, and surveillance data indicate that the injection of prescription opiates and heroin are driving this epidemic. Continue reading

The Future of Health Department HIV and Hepatitis Programs

By Dawn Fukuda, Director, Office of HIV/AIDS, Massachusetts Department of Public Health and NASTAD Chair (Incoming)

Dawn Fakuda

Dawn Fukuda, Director, Office of HIV/AIDS, Massachusetts Department of Public Health and NASTAD Chair

For perhaps the first time in history, the end of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis is within our reach. Recent notable achievements provide promise for success, among them the release of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan (VHAP) and the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Collectively, these achievements have catalyzed the beginning of a radical transformation in our healthcare systems for communities impacted by HIV and hepatitis. In particular, the ACA represents an opportunity for the country to expand access to HIV/AIDS and hepatitis prevention, medical care, and health promotion services in profound and impactful ways. The systems-level changes advanced in the legislation also require state health departments to reassess their role in the context of an evolving health care system and the other sources of financing that may become available to support what have historically been public health functions—this is particularly the case for HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis prevention and care services. Continue reading

The Year in Review: A Reflection on the Challenges Health Department HIV and Hepatitis Programs Faced over the Last Year

By Randy Mayer, Chief, Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis, Iowa Department of Public Health and NASTAD Chair (Outgoing)

Randy Mayer, Chief, Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis, Iowa Department of Public Health

Randy Mayer, Chief, Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis, Iowa Department of Public Health

As I began my tenure as NASTAD’s Chair in May 2012, state health department HIV and viral hepatitis programs were trying to understand and react to the impact of the funding redistributions brought about by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’ (CDC) HIV prevention funding opportunity announcement 12-1201. At the same time, we were just learning about the possibility of fiscal sequestration, set to begin in early 2013. NASTAD’s analysis pointed to the potential for an overall 8.2 percent cut to HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis programs that would severely impact ADAP enrollment and critical prevention, surveillance and viral hepatitis programming. The cuts would be especially devastating at a time when ending HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis is within our reach. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Viral Hepatitis Action Plan provide roadmaps for reducing new infections and increasing access to care, but these cuts mean we may never be able to realize these goals. Continue reading

How Health Departments Are Responding to Hepatitis B in Asian and Pacific Islander Communities

By Thaddeus Pham, Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator, Hawaii Department of Health

Hepatitis Testing Day 2013In addition to observing Hepatitis Awareness Month and Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, this week we also recognize the second annual Hepatitis Testing Day. As I look at all these important events for the month, I am reminded about why I do the work that I do. I invest my time and energy and passion in combating viral hepatitis not only because I believe in public health, not only because I am an Asian American, but also because it affects people I know and love.  Continue reading

Increasing Funding to End the HIV and Viral Hepatitis Epidemics

By Oscar Mairena and Emily McCloskey, Managers of Policy & Legislative Affairs

­­­­­President's FY2014 BudgetAs we begin to see the effects of the sequester on public health programs nationwide, it becomes increasingly clear that we must increase funding for HIV and viral hepatitis programs in FY2014 and onward in order to truly end these epidemics and improve the nation’s health. In light of this need, NASTAD has released fact sheets with recommendations for FY2014 health department HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis program funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Continue reading