"Know More Hepatitis" with HCVCurrent

May 5, 2015

Maureen Fitzgerald
Communications Coordinator, ATTC Network
Editor, NIATx

"Maintaining my recovery while dealing with a diagnosis of Hepatitis C is a lot like juggling while walking a tightrope." Kimberly Walline, ATTC Network's In My Own Words Essay Contest, 2013

Kimberly’s story appears in the “In My Own Words” essay book, the result of the ATTC Network’s  Recovery Month 2013 essay contest. With Faces and Voices of Recovery, the Hepatitis C Association, the Harm Reduction Coalition, and Help4Hep, our  Recovery Month partners that year, we invited essays from people who are coping with Hepatitis C and also in recovery from a substance use disorder or mental illness.
People with mental health and substance use disorders face an increased risk for Hepatitis C infection, and the essays that appear in "In My Own Words" share some very personal stories of resilience and recovery. They tell us about the struggles of finding treatment and managing multiple symptoms—both challenges compounded by the stigma connected to having a substance use disorder and/or mental illness, and Hepatitis C.

The CDC’s Hepatitis Awareness Month, held every May since 2001, addresses these challenges with a national effort to increase awareness and encourage testing. This year’s theme, Know More Hepatitis, emphasizes that:
  • Hepatitis C often has no symptoms
  • Babyboomers (people born between 1945 and 1965) are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis C can cause liver damage and liver failure
  • Successful treatments can eliminate the virus from the body
As Sue Simon, president of the Hepatitis C Association wrote in a September 2013 post on this blog, “Hepatitis C is the first chronic virus that is actually being cured by medications.”

And the ATTC Network's newest resource, HCVCurrent, is designed to help treatment providers “know more” about Hepatitis C.  Leslie Cohen, director of the New England ATTC, also directs the ATTC's  Hepatitis C workgroup that created HCVCurrent. Says Leslie, “The rapid advances in the field of HCV treatment are incredible, and we are eager to disseminate the latest on HCV prevention, screening, testing, and treatment to behavioral health and medical professionals through the HCVCurrent Initiative.” 

HCVCurrent offers a behavioral health and medical professionals a number of resources for helping people like Kimberly and others who feel like they’re juggling while walking a tightrope. Lisa Hendrich, another "In My Own Words" essay writer, sums what also could be the mission statement for HCVCurrent: "...Through education and advocacy, we will reduce stigma, learn how to manage both addiction and Hepatitis C, and eliminate fear for patients."

Visit HCVCurrent to find out more new  training tools like HCV Snapshot, an online course that offers an overview of Hepatitis C in just 90 minutes. Members of the Hepatitis C workgroup tell more about the project in the main article in this month’s ATTC Messenger. They'll also follow up with a webinar in June. On May 13, the Northeast & Caribbean ATTC is presenting "Increasing Knowledge for Behavioral Health and Medical Providers" for providers in the New York City area. This six-hour training is part of the HCVCurrent suite of training products and will be offered throughout the country. (Contact your ATTC Regional Center to request a training in your area.)

And later in May, we’ll feature a blogpost from Corinna Dan, Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (See Corinna’s related post on the blog.Aids.gov. Social Media Tools to Help You Observe Hepatitis Awareness Month.)

Is your organization sponsoring any special activities for Hepatitis C Awareness Month? Are you planning to participate in the "Thunderclap" on May 19--which is also National Hepatitis Testing day?  Let us know in the comment section below.

Printed copies of the In My Own Words essay book are available from the ATTC Network Coordinating Office. For more information, contact Cindy Christy at christyc@umkc.edu

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