New direct-acting Antivirals are changing chronic Hepatitis C treatment for the better. Hepatitis C (HCV) treatment has gone from a once exhausting 48 weeks duration to as a little as 8 weeks with a 95% sustained virologic response (SVR). SVR is defined as a viremia (the presence of viruses in the blood) 24 weeks after completion of antiviral therapy for chronic HCV infection (. In analyses of SVR durability, the incidence of late relapse is extremely low, less than 1%.
The primary clinic treating vulnerable populations for HCV, in Calgary, is C.U.P.S. (Calgary Urban Projects Society) who is currently offering a 12 week treatment option for those individuals without private insurance plans. The 12 week treatment includes a weekly dose of Ribavirin, an injection medication with many side-affects. A one tablet, once a day, regimes with fewer side effects compared previous medications are now available to those with private insurance and by special authorization (compassionate care) through NIHB and AISH. We will know by June which medications are covered by the provincial drug plans and therefore what treatment options are available to the vulnerable populations of Calgary moving forward.
CUPS offers the only Hepatitis C support group in Southern Alberta. With support from HIV Community Link’s VIP outreach worker, the group provides support in the form of education and peer support for people living with HCV who are thinking of treatment, currently on treatment, have completed treatment, and those who are not yet sure that treatment is their best option. Our goal is to promote the support group and encourage referrals from within CUPS and from community partner agencies. In building community capacities we hope to reduce stigma associated with a HCV diagnosis and increase the frequency of testing among all populations in order to facilitate treatment as soon as possible; therefore, decreasing the incidence of fibrosis (scarring) of the liver which can lead to cirrhosis and in turn require a future liver transplant.
This is a call to action for all agencies in the city of Calgary and province of Alberta to recognize the impact that HCV can have on the lives of those who do not know they are infected with a virus that we are now very able to cure in as little as 8 weeks!
Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam Webster. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2015, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/