Hepatitis Awareness Month and Hepatitis Testing Day

Holly Hagle, PhD

Leslie Cohen, BS
New England ATTC

May 10, 2016

The month of May is designated as Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States, and May 19 is Hepatitis Testing Day. During May, many public health partners will work to shed light on this hidden epidemic by raising awareness of viral hepatitis and encouraging priority populations to get tested (CDC, 2016).

See the May 2016 press release from the CDC: Hepatitis C Kills More Americans than Any Other Infectious Disease

ATTC Network HCV Current Initiative

HCV Current is a national initiative developed by the ATTC Regional and National Focus Area Centers and funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to increase hepatitis C (HCV) knowledge among medical and behavioral health professionals--specifically, staff at federally qualified health centers.

To disseminate the latest on the rapidly evolving field of HCV, and to address the HCV epidemic in the United States, this initiative provides comprehensive resources for health professionals, including:
  • Online and in-person curriculum and training
  • Downloadable provider tools
  • Region-specific resources 
Click here to view the HCV Current infographic.

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) 

As defined by SAMHSA, SBIRT is a comprehensive, integrated public health approach to the delivery of early intervention and treatment services for people with substance use disorders, as well as those who are at risk of developing those disorders.
  • Screening quickly assesses for the presence of risking substance use, follows positive screen with further assessment of problem use, and identifies the appropriate level of treatment. 
  • Brief intervention focuses on increasing insight and awareness regarding substance use and motivation toward behavior change.
  • Referral to treatment provides those identified as needing more extensive treatment with access to specialty care. 
A Public Health Approach to Health and Wellness 

Bringing this public health approach together with the silent epidemic of hepatitis C makes sense, since persons with mental health and substance use disorders face an increased risk for the infection. As noted in the cross-agency Action Plan for thePrevention, Care, and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis 2014-2016increasing the proportion of persons who are aware of their hepatitis C virus infection by improving the frequency, availability, and acceptability of hepatitis testing is critical to addressing this leading infectious cause of death.
  • Hepatitis C, a viral disease that destroys liver cells, is the most common blood-borne infection in the United States.  See the CDC Press Release: Hepatitis C Kills More Americans Than Any Other Infectious Disease
  • There has been a nationwide increase in HCV infection occurring among young (20 year old) people who are using and injecting opioids. 
  • Testing for HCV and connecting health outcomes to substance use through the application of SBIRT can get people into treatment earlier.
Coming Soon: SBIRT & Hepatitis C Video Vignette Series

Currently in post-production, the National SBIRT, New England, and Northeast & Caribbean ATTCs have collaborated on an educational video vignette series. This video vignette series highlights six health scenarios in which SBIRT and Hep C screening is discussed in relation to the patients' presenting health condition. We are excited to present these sneak peeks: 

Meet Henry - Henry is an active 66-year old African American professional male. He is a healthy older man, who recently lost a great deal of weight and is working on being physically fit, exercising daily, and working out at the local gym. He is also proud of the fact that, except for the year when he was a marine helicopter pilot in Viet Nam, Henry has never used drugs. While in Viet Nam, Henry smoked marijuana, and after seeing some of his friends killed in action, injected heroin with the guys in his unit for the remainder of his overseas tour of duty. 

Meet Eddie - Eddie is an 18-year old suburban male who began abusing opioid pain medication when he was 14 years old and crossed over to intravenous heroin abuse two years later. Eddie frequently shared works with drug friends and sometimes with the dealers who sold him drugs. Between the ages of 14 and 17, he had numerous admissions into both out-patient and in-patient drug-free substance abuse treatment programs, quickly relapsing after completion of each program. Five months ago, while he was driving under the influence, he had a near-fatal car accident. During his surgery, he received two blood transfusions. Eddie was significantly impacted by the distress the accident caused for his family. After he was released from the hospital, Eddie enrolled in a Suboxone program and has abstained from abusing all drugs for the last four months. 

All six vignettes are designed to portray a health encounter in which risks of Hep C are discussed and feedback on alcohol and/or drug use (SBIRT) are given in the context of the presenting health condition. These educational videos can be used with the Increasing Hepatitis C Knowledge for Behavioral Health and Medical Providers curriculum available through HCV Current, and will be available in fall 2016

For more information, visit the HCV Current page on the ATTC Network website.

Related blog posts:
"Know More Hepatitis" with HCVCurrent
Recovery Month 2013: Sharing Stories from People in Recovery Who Also Have Hepatitis C

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