Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is a common infection, with an estimated 3.5 million persons chronically infected in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Indian and Alaska Native people have the highest mortality rate from hepatitis C of any race or ethnicity. But Hepatitis C can be cured and our Portland Area IHS, Tribal and Urban Indian primary care clinics have the capacity to provide this cure. Some of these clinics have already initiated HCV screening and treatment resulting in patients cured and earning greatly deserved gratitude from the communities they serve.
HCV has historically been difficult to treat, with highly toxic drug regimens and low cure rates. In recent years, however, medical options have vastly improved: current treatments have few side effects, are taken by mouth, and have cure rates of over 90%. Curing a patient of HCV greatly reduces their risk of developing liver cancer and liver failure. Early detection of HCV infection through routine and targeted screening is critical to the success of treating HCV with these new drug regimens.