Skip to content

Treating Hepatitis C Patients Where They Are

Testing for hepatitis C in community and clinic settings improves treatment access and promotes follow-up, according to a recent study by the World Health Organization.

The research reinforces a similar study from the Journal of the American Medical Association showing the effectiveness of point-of-care treatment, in which treatment begins immediately after diagnosis instead of at a subsequent appointment.

Find it. Treat it. Cure it.

Bringing care directly to impacted communities can result in high numbers of patients completing treatment. In the JAMA study, street outreach to San Francisco’s homeless population and injectable drug users resulted in 79% of people completing treatment over 12 weeks. More than 90% of people who completed the course of treatment succeeded in eliminating their hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is curable, but regular testing and treatment options can be inaccessible to many at-risk people. Especially among low-income, underserved and otherwise medically marginalized groups, an on-the-spot test-and-treat model like that offered by No One Waits at the University of California San Francisco improves outcomes. Incentives, including small cash payments, sterile syringes and hot meals, also prompted people to get tested, according to researchers.

An Australian pilot study of people with recent injectable drug use had more modest, but still positive, results for hepatitis C treatment and recovery.

Making Hepatitis C Treatment More Available

Hepatitis C is increasingly common, but still poorly understood by most patients.

About 40% of people living with hepatitis C do not know they have been infected. They may feel well for years and unknowingly infect those around them. Even people who are accurately diagnosed are still likely to delay treatment, whether for lack of resources, stigma, or other reasons. Only one in three patients diagnosed with hepatitis C will seek treatment within a year.

Each added step — a follow-up appointment, a prescription to be filled, a blood test to monitor effectiveness — reduces the likelihood that patients will complete treatment. Streamlining these steps promotes better outcomes.

Expanding the point-of-care model could one day lead to testing and treatment at community centers, substance abuse treatment programs, jails, homeless shelters or libraries. By increasing treatment uptake and cure rates, it could also advance communities toward the ultimate goal of eliminating hepatitis C and its devastating impact on patients.

Related Articles