By Frankie Snow and Suzy Subways
From PHN Issue 46, Spring/Summer 2021
Getting access to hepatitis C testing and treatment continues to be an unfair fight for those in prison. About one-third of people living with hep C in the U.S. are incarcerated, but most states don’t offer testing in prison to let people know if they have the hep C virus. You may need to ask for a hep C test—and then ask again to make sure you get your test results. Most people who have hep C don’t know it, so testing is very important. Sometimes the symptoms don’t show up until a person’s liver is badly damaged, which may be many years after they got the virus. Prison health officials often don’t want to test for hep C because they might have to pay for treatment if the test comes back positive. Everyone who has chronic hep C, meaning they’ve had it for more than six months, must be given medication.
Before COVID-19 came along, hep C was the No. 1 killer out of all the infectious diseases. But drug companies are allowed to set whatever price they want to charge for the medications to cure it, because we live in a society that values profit over people. The cost of treatment and money-minded politicians have meant that many corrections departments across the U.S. have refused to pay for the treatment to save people’s lives. The medications, which cure almost all cases of hep C, are called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs). The cost of DAAs is different from state to state, ranging from $10,000 to $30,000, according to Mandy Altman of the National Hepatitis Corrections Network.Continue reading