by Caroline Benitez
World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places every year on July 28th bringing the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. In 2020 the theme is ‘Find the Missing Millions’.
When your liver is healthy, you won’t notice as it performs a wide variety of essential roles, such as filtering your blood and aiding digestive processes. But for the estimated 2.4 million Americans living with a chronic Hepatitis C infection, they might not even notice that their liver is being subjected to long-term damage.
Hepatitis C is an inflammatory condition caused by infection of the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV.) This virus is blood borne, meaning that infection can be spread through contact with infected blood. A person could have contracted HCV from a wide variety of sources, from blood transfusions, to dialysis, or unsanitary needles. This infection is often be largely asymptomatic in its early stages. Gradual damage to the liver can occur over decades without being noticed. When this happens, serious conditions such as scarring (cirrhosis) or liver cancer can occur.
Because a HCV infection is hard to notice from symptoms alone, the CDC recommends that all adults over the age of 18 be screened for the virus via blood testing at least once in their life. In an effort to catch these infections early, LVIM has established its own screening program to ensure all of our at-risk patients get screened for Hepatitis C.
If blood testing does reveal the presence of Hepatitis C infection, medications offer patients hope. New treatment is available that can cure a person entirely of their Hepatitis C infection. However, without insurance, the cost of this medication proves prohibitive to most. Our Prescription Assistance Program works hard to ensure our patients get access to this lifesaving treatment at no cost. In 2019, six LVIM patients in this program completed treatment and were cured from the virus.
LVIM provides free, high-quality, out-patient medical, dental, and mental health care to the working uninsured of Polk County in a compassionate manner. Through 19 years of excellent leadership, LVIM has grown into a thriving and crucial organization for the Polk County community serving the health care needs of over 4,300 eligible patients each year and providing over $9 million in services in 2019 alone. At LVIM the treatment is free, the care is priceless!