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Can We Finally Cure Hep C Among HIV+ People of Color?

Could This Program Cure Hep C Among HIV+ People of Color

A new government initiative aims to treat hepatitis C among people of color who are also living with HIV.

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration HIV/AIDS Bureau has announced a new initiative dedicated to people of color with HIV and hepatitis C.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 25 percent of people living with HIV also have hep C, African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by both diseases,  and the number of hep C cases in the U.S. continue to rise.  

Funded through HRSA's Minority AIDS Initiative Fund, the initiative — called the “Jurisdictional Approach to Curing Hepatitis C among HIV/HCV Coinfected People of Color” — will focus on developing new screening, care, and treatment approaches specifically for those living with both viruses. The initiative includes three separately-funded components.

First, three Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program jurisdictions will implement new HCV/HIV projects. Those jurisdictions are Hartford, Conneticut, New York City, and Philadelphia. Each will increase their ability to provide comprehensive screening, care, and treatment of hep C among HIV-positive people of color.  These efforts hope to increase the number of people of color who have both viruses who are diagnosed, treated, and eventually cured of thier HCV.

Second, it authorizes The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors to serve as a "State Health Departments Coordinating Center," and facilitate the participation of those areas in this "demonstration project." Basically NASTAD will provide guidance and technical assistance to state and local health departments to develop, maintain, and enhance comprehensive hepatitis programs that target people of color living with HIV.

The third aspect is an Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center, which will offer technical assistance and capacity building support, multi-site evaluation, and will publish reports on best practices, lessons learned, and other findings. Rather than establishing a new center, the department will turn to The RAND Corporation — an organization which researches and publishes nonpartisan policy solutions — to provide those services.

For several years, HRSA has also funded a Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program  Special Projects of National Significance Hepatitis C Treatment Expansion Initiative.

Funded through the Minority AIDS Initiative Fund, the program is slated to run three years, subject to NASTAD's satisfactory performance and "the availability of funds." With a new administration on the way, whether those funds will be available in 2017 and 2018 is anyone's guess. But at least this program is a start in getting more people of color living with hep C and HIV into treatment and cured of hepatitis. 

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