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Alan Franciscus
Editor-in-Chief
HCV Advocate
HBV Advocate

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Addressing Viral Hepatitis in People With Substance Use Disorders


Our colleagues at SAMHSA have just released a new Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP), Addressing Viral Hepatitis in People With Substance Use Disorders. This is an important and helpful step toward achieving the fifth goal of the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, which calls on us to ensure that persons who use drugs have access to viral hepatitis prevention, care, and treatment services. Chief among the ways we can advance this goal is by integrating viral hepatitis prevention and care services as standard components of all substance abuse treatment programs.

Injection-drug use is a primary risk factor for exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) because of needle-sharing and other drug-related behaviors. Among new cases of hepatitis C reported to CDC, injection-drug use is the most common risk factor. Research shows that injection-drug users (IDUs) have high rates of viral hepatitis infection with an estimated 64% chronically infected with HCV and up to 11% chronically infected with HBV. IDUs are not only disproportionately affected by these viruses, but they are also more likely to have adverse hepatitis-related health outcomes compared to other infected populations—primarily because of related health conditions (known as “comorbidities”) and inadequate access to and receipt of needed health services.

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