LA's homeless experience high hepatitis rates
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It's hard enough to convince the average American to regularly visit a sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing center, so imagine how difficult it is to get a homeless person to go to one. According to a recent study from UCLA, 27 percent of homeless people in Los Angeles have hepatitis C, which is more than 10 times the 2 percent rate among the general U.S. population. Furthermore, half of these individuals don't even know they are infected.
Researcher Lillian Gelberg, M.D., professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said that less than 3 percent of the homeless people in the study who were aware that they were infected reported ever getting treatment for their hepatitis.
According to Gelberg, untreated hepatitis C may not only cost these homeless people their health, but also taxpayers their money.
"The costs of their untreated hepatitis C may start escalating soon, as many are approaching 20 years of infection, which is the point at which we see escalating risk for liver cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease, requiring expensive health services utilization and liver transplantation," she said.
The scientists found that hepatitis C rates were the highest among homeless individuals who had injected drugs or been in prison, were 40 years of age and older, had less education or were U.S.-born. The researchers added that their study may not have uncovered all of the homeless people in the area with this virus, and there may be many more.
Study authors stated that these findings highlight the need for interventions that encourage homeless people to be safer and visit STD testing centers in Los Angeles to determine if they have hepatitis.
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