A few years ago it was reported that the Department of Veteran Affairs could not afford to treat over 146,000 veterans infected with hepatitis C. This came to light at a time when a cure for hepatitis C was made available to the public by Gilead Sciences. Last Friday, however, at the 24th Annual Wharton Health Care Business Conference, Dr. David J. Shulkin announced that the VA was on track to eliminate hepatitis C infections among veterans.
Originally, it was projected that the cost of the new ground breaking treatment, which is capable of curing hepatitis C within twelve weeks, would be too far out of reach for the annual budget of the VA. After working with the manufacturers, the VA was able to receive a reduced rate for veterans and will be administering treatment to thousands over the next twelve months.
This news comes as a relief to many soldiers, particularly those who fought in Vietnam. During this conflict, many soldiers became infected with hepatitis C due to poor quality medical care administered while in the battlefield. Blood transfusions and vaccinations administered during this time was found to be a leading cause in the spread of hepatitis C among the soldiers. Many of these soldiers would return home and suffer the long term effects of the viral infection. Many would even die.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. This virus can also be transmitted through sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs. For some people hepatitis C is a short term illness, however in many people it becomes a chronic infection with serious health consequences and may even result in death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that the majority of people infected are unaware of their infection because they may not be showing any signs of illness. This can result in many health problems later in life.
Since a person may be infected with hepatitis C for a long time without any signs or symptoms, hepatitis C testing can be the best way to learn about your current health status. Discovering the infection is the first step towards beginning treatment and working towards a cure.