An Emerging Epidemic: The Public Health Response to Hepatitis C Infection among Young People who Inject Drugs

By Oscar Mairena, Manager, Viral Hepatitis/Policy and Legislative Affairs

Panelists at the NASTAD and Harm Reduction Coalition Congressional Briefing.

Panelists at the NASTAD and Harm Reduction Coalition Congressional Briefing.

Last year, the Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator (VHPC) in Massachusetts, Dan Church, wrote a post about the increasing rate of acute hepatitis C (HCV) infection among young persons who inject drugs in Massachusetts and the health department’s efforts to prevent new infections, identify existing cases, educate individuals vulnerable to acquisition, and enhance surveillance and data collection to better address the epidemic. Since then, more health departments have reported this trend, especially among young persons who begin using prescription opioids and transition to injecting heroin. Earlier this week, NASTAD partnered with the Harm Reduction Coalition to host a Congressional Briefing, An Emerging Epidemic: The Public Health Response to Hepatitis C Infection among Young People who Use Drugs, to bring this issue to light, educate Congressional staff and reinforce the role of public health in addressing emerging health concerns. Continue reading

How Health Departments Are Addressing the Viral Hepatitis Epidemic in the U.S.

By Maria Courogen, Director of the Office of Infectious Disease, Washington State Department of Health

Maria Courogen

Maria Courogen, Washington State AIDS Director, speaking at the launch of the updated Viral Hepatitis Action Plan.

In my role in Washington State, I oversee the state health department’s work in the areas of HIV, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), tuberculosis and viral hepatitis. In my role as a member of NASTAD’s Executive Committee and Chair-Elect, I work with state health department colleagues across the country, many of whom have a similar portfolio of work, to provide leadership in the country’s response to HIV and hepatitis. As such, On April 3, I participated in an event hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the release of the next iteration of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan.

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Youth Ambassadors – Call for Applicants in Dallas, Texas

By Daniel Olavarria, Associate, Health Equity

Deadline: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Individuals are strongly encouraged to submit their applications before the final deadline.

NASTAD Youth AmbassadorsThe National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) is looking to identify young Latino gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) who are up-and-coming leaders doing innovative work on a volunteer basis in their communities/schools to improve the well-being of other gay men/MSM.

With an emphasis on creative utilization of social media as the cornerstone of this program, NASTAD is seeking to advance the work being done by youth leaders who have identified challenges in their communities and have formulated forward-thinking solutions. This program is intended to expand the way that NASTAD connects with young people, facilitate opportunities for these men to partner with health departments and to network with each another. Continue reading

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

Raising the Bar: Young People, HIV and Access to Healthcare

By Isaiah Webster III, Manager, Prevention

National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness DayToday’s youth are the first generation to have never known life without HIV/AIDS. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people ages 13-29 accounted for 39% of all new HIV infections as of 2009. More than 34,000 young people are living with HIV, and health departments remain committed to linking these individuals to care. Continue reading