Cape Cod Times (Hyannis) (07.29.2013)
As part of its World Hepatitis Day involvement, access nantucket, a Massachusetts-based HIV and hepatitis advocacy group, is offering $10 grocery store gift cards to individuals who get tested for hepatitis C through Thursday, August 1. Public health officials often refer to hepatitis C as a “silent disease,” because someone could have it for decades before showing symptoms, which could include liver cancer or failure.
"There are many people who are living with it who don't know they're living with it," according to Libby Maynes, program manager for access nantucket. The group noted that hepatitis C affected both baby boomers and young injection drug users on Cape Cod in epidemic proportions. CDC currently urges all adults born between 1945 and 1965 to be tested for hepatitis C, as baby boomers accounted for 75 percent of chronic hepatitis C cases.
Access nantucket’s free and confidential pinprick rapid test provides results in 20 minutes. Maynes noted that the rapid test was "a huge improvement" from the previous test, which involved drawing blood and took approximately two weeks to provide results. She also explained that staff would assist any individual who received a positive test result with making an appointment for further testing to see if they had an active strain of the virus.
Max Sandusky, director of prevention and screening services for AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, explained that additional testing was useful in determining a positive individual’s viral load, as approximately 20 percent of people infected with hepatitis C have proven able to clear the disease without medical intervention. In 2007, hepatitis C surpassed HIV in US deaths, with more than 15,000 hepatitis-related deaths compared to 12,734 HIV-related deaths, according to CDC. Hepatitis C is a major cause of liver transplantation, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.