An estimated 2.7 – 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C [1]. Although hepatitis C can often be treated successfully, inequities exist among certain groups because not everyone has the same access to screening and treatment. Of those with chronic hepatitis C in the United States, about 75% are unaware that they are infected [1].

To combat this public health concern, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all patients 18 years and older should be screened for hepatitis C at least once in their lifetime [2]. Although screening can help detect the infection before it has caused serious damage to a person's liver, many individuals face barriers to testing.

LetsGetChecked’s hepatitis C screening solution can help members of your population access crucial health insights so they can access the appropriate treatment to prevent the progression of liver disease.


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Many don’t know their hepatitis C status


One of the challenges with diagnosing hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is that it is often asymptomatic. This means that many people experience a prolonged time to diagnosis. Although some people clear the virus, most people with acute hepatitis C will develop a chronic infection. Left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can cause severe liver damage, liver cancer, and even death. Fortunately, hepatitis C is curable with timely identification and treatment. The first step to being cured is getting tested.


Disparities in hepatitis C care


Research shows that the diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C can vary between races, resulting in inequities in healthcare. According to a national study of Medicare beneficiaries with HCV, patients in racial minority groups had lower probabilities of pre- and post-treatment testing than whites [3]. A 2016 study that examined treatment rates for chronic hepatitis C found that white people had higher treatment rates than historically marginalized groups [4]:

  • white — 10.7 percent
  • Black — 8.8 percent
  • Hispanic — 8.8 percent
  • Asian — 7.9 percent

Barriers to hepatitis C screening


Screening and testing for hepatitis C is a fundamental step in identifying those who are unaware of their infection. However, many people face challenges that prevent them from getting the testing and care they need. Common barriers to hepatitis C testing include:


Lack of knowledge


A lack of knowledge about hepatitis C, including risk factors, means of transmission, and the results of untreated infection, are frequently reported as barriers to patients seeking hepatitis C testing. Knowledge gaps are evident among patients of all risk levels. Increasing public awareness of hepatitis C is critical to improving screening rates, diagnosis, and treatment.


Low perceived risk of infection


A lack of knowledge about hepatitis C leads to low self-perceived risk of infection. This, in turn, leads to under- and undiagnosed cases of hepatitis C infection. Patients frequently report not being at risk for HCV infection or not having any risk factors. Moreover, patients who had taken a hepatitis C test in the past were more likely to not seek testing again.


Fear, stigma and discrimination


Stigmatizing perceptions and negative attitudes about hepatitis C persist and are significant barrier to patients seeking testing. Patients—particularly immigrant and migrant populations—fear a positive hepatitis C diagnosis and the associated stigma and discrimination, which act as barriers to screening.


Limited access to the health care system


Limited interactions with the health care system, lack of a primary care provider, and an unstable socioeconomic status are all barriers to hepatitis C testing. Testing is difficult for many people, especially those with a greater risk of exposure and few resources. Patients typically must visit healthcare providers multiple times and wait for weeks for a diagnosis. People with unreliable access to transportation or housing may be unable to make follow-up appointments to receive their results.


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How LetsGetChecked can help


LetsGetChecked’s hepatitis C screening solution can help members of your population access the timely testing and care they need, wherever they are. Our convenient and easy-to-use solutions enable your people to overcome barriers to testing and close gaps in care. Together, we can help reduce the burden of the disease and limit transmission to those at increased risk of infection and those at risk of reinfection.


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References

  1. https://liverfoundation.org/liver-diseases/viral-hepatitis/hepatitis-c/
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv/testingchronic.htm
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35271617
  4. https://journals.lww.com/md-journal/fulltext/2016/05310/racial_disparities_in_treatment_rates_for_chronic.12.aspx#