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Subject Matter Hearing Testimony Supporting SB2670 (Hepatitis C Screening Bill)

May 5, 2014

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Written testimony released April 29, 2014

SB2670 creates the Hepatitis C Screening Act, which provides that individuals born from 1945 to 1965 be offered a hepatitis C test when accessing other health care services.

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) testifies in support of SB 2670 — The Hepatitis Screening Bill. We thank Senator John Mulroe along with many advocates and organizations in the health and health disparities fields for their dedicated work on this bill.

AFC fully supports broad screening for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in populations most likely to be infected. Expanding hepatitis C testing in Illinois moves our state closer to aligning with the national recommendations issued by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, as HCV testing is considered critical to early detection and preventing disability.

According to the Institutes of Medicine, 75% of people with chronic hepatitis C are unaware of their status. Additionally, approximately 30% of people living with HIV in the U.S. are co-infected with hepatitis C. HCV is a leading cause of death of individuals who are HIV-positive and disproportionately impacts African Americans and Latinos.

We can turn the tide on these numbers and save lives. The advent of new, highly effective, and well-tolerated treatment options now makes it possible to treat and cure people of this deadly virus. However, we cannot treat people if we do not know that they are carrying the virus, and this is why HCV screening is so important.

There is a recognized connection between HIV and hepatitis C, as the two viruses can be transmitted in the same ways. Infection with one virus indicates a higher possibility that a person also carries the other. When a person is found to have hepatitis C, we have an opportunity to also identify a new case of HIV, since medical providers are well aware of this connection.

The CDC estimates that 20% of people with HIV do not know that they have been infected with the virus. We also know that those unaware of their infection are most likely to unintentionally transmit the virus to others. Because HIV and HCV share modes of transmission, medical providers know to offer an HIV test to a person who tests positive for HCV. Expanding testing of HCV can facilitate increased testing and ultimately treatment and care for both HIV and HCV. Such expansion gives us the unique and critical opportunity to significantly impact not one but two epidemics, saving countless lives as well as public health dollars.

Contact: Chez Ordonez, cordonez@aidschicago.org

Categorized under Advocacy and Illinois.

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