Health officials say many people with AIDS also have Hepatitis-C.
Patients with HIV/AIDs will have access to some new medications. Those who receive their medications under the Maryland AIDS Drug Assistance Program will also be able to get drugs to treat hepatitis-C. “They’re both infectious disease and both blood borne infections,” says Jeffrey Hitt, the Director of Infectious Diseases Bureau of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “Injection drug use is a common factor for both infections.”
The Hepatitis-C medications covered by MADAP are Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofobuvir), Viekira Pak, Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), Ribavarin and Zepatier.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 25% of people infected with HIV/AIDS are also co-infected with Hepatitis-C.
“Maryland has a substantial burden of HCV and, until recently, it was extremely difficult to treat,” says Hitt.
“Through the Maryland AIDS Drug Assistance Program, we help people who have HIV who can’t afford insurance or can’t afford medications. In some cases, we actually purchase medications directly,”: Hitt says.
But changes in health care laws helped make sure more patients have access to medications for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis-C. “These days, with the expansion of access to insurance, we help people to afford medical insurance. That’s get them access to a lot of drugs. Sometimes we’ll help with premiums, and sometimes we’ll help with co-pay,” he says.
Hitt advises testing for Hepatitis-C, especially if you’re a “baby boomer,” those born between 1946 and 1964, and if you’ve injected drugs or had a transfusion. “Before a certain time, there wasn’t really a screening test and there wasn’t an awareness of HCV. So that it’s possible that ‘baby boomers’ could be infected with HCV and didn’t know it,” he says. HCV stands for Hepatitis-C virus.
Hitt says many Marylanders can find out more information about Hepatitis-C by contacting their local Health Department.