Franciscan Alliance will intensify its efforts in Indiana to combat Hepatitis C, which has seen a tripling of cases nationwide in the last five years, through recent receipt of a $365,266 grant that will expand screening programs.
The Franciscan Health Foundation, on behalf of Franciscan Alliance, was awarded the funds, which originally were presented in 2016 to the foundation for Hepatitis C services in south suburban Chicago. The program now will expand into Franciscan’s Indiana divisions.
Caitlin Leahy, foundation corporate executive director, was pleased to hear of the grant award.
“If identified early, HVC is treatable and even curable. New medications have been introduced that reduce treatment times and have significantly fewer side effects. This funding gives us the ability to expand our reach from south suburban Chicago service areas to the over 28 counties in Indiana that Franciscan is privileged to serve,” she said. “Hep C kills more Americans than any other infectious disease reported to the CDC. The Baby Boomer population (born 1945-’65) is most susceptible; however, with the increase of injection drug use linked to the opioid epidemic, infection rates for Americans between the ages of 20 to 29 are on the rise.”
Leahy added, “We anticipate being able to expand our testing of at-risk populations from 13,000 to 40,000. Franciscan Alliance will be able to help identify those who need treatment and assist with linking them to the care they need, before it’s too late.”
The grant is administered by Gilead Sciences Inc., a California-based biopharmaceutical company, which develops therapeutics in areas of unmet medical needs. The grant renewal and extension will begin in May and provide services through May 2019.
Hepatitis C has few noticeable symptoms, so many infected people do not know they have it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates at least half of infected people are unaware of the infection.
About Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus: the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
- The hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus and the most common modes of infection are through exposure to small quantities of blood. This may happen through injection drug use, unsafe injection practices, unsafe health care, and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.
- Globally, an estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C infection.
- A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.
- Approximately 399,000 people die each year from hepatitis C, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.
- Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95 percent of persons with hepatitis C, thereby reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.
- There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C; however research in this area is ongoing.