The results of a new study regarding the correlation between cases of Hepatitis C (HCV) and the lack of health care coverage was released in February. The findings were published in the March issue of Hepatology, a peer-reviewed journal put out by the American Association for Liver Diseases. The study was primarily conducted by the researchers at the Center of Liver Diseases at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia. They revealed the stunning statistics that two-thirds of the individuals who have HCV do not have adequate health insurance.
Hepatitis exists in three forms: hepatitis A, B, and C. In any of its forms, it is a liver disease; the variations refer to the type of infection (bacterial versus viral), method of infection, and its prognosis. Hepatitis C is viral in origin, and normally spread through sexual contact or contact with blood, such as in instances of needle-sharing by IV drug users or dirty tattoo needles. HCV is often asymptomatic until it reaches its later stages, when damage to the liver is irreversible. It is possible to live with HCV, but life expectancy is decreased.
Although there are several treatments and vaccinations in the test stages at this time, there is as of yet no cure for or vaccine against HCV. Treatment with antiviral agents such as interferon has proved successful in increasing life-spans of HCV positive individuals, but this is not a cure. The best way to guard against HCV is to avoid risky behavior, such as unprotected sex or using intravenous drugs. Individuals also need to make sure that tattoos and piercings are done in sanitary, certified establishments.
HCV infection is often due to the kinds of behavior associated with the “lower class,” meaning unprotected sexual contact, drug usage, and so on. These lifestyle choices are normally made by individuals who are not members of the “establishment.” What that typically means is that they do not hold jobs with comprehensive health care coverage, have lower levels of education, and are not aware of state or federal benefits for health care coverage. Also, many HCV patients are also HIV positive.
In this study, the researchers evaluated health insurance status and candidacy for treatment of their HCV. The data used was collected between 2005-2008 by the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. This information was gathered during household interviews, examinations, and lab sample data from those who were U.S. citizens of legal age. It was determined that HCV-positive individuals in the U.S. are twice as likely not to have health care coverage as those who are not HCV-positive.
Ultimately, HCV is a debilitating illness which is unfortunately associated with risky behavior and “loose” morals. The people who live with it must endure not only the physical effects but also the social stigma, which makes the problem that much worse. The sufferers are not assisted in the confrontation with their disease by health care coverage, which often ultimately leads to early demise due to liver failure and other complications. Early testing, diagnosis, and treatment are essential, along with health care coverage for people who would normally never consider themselves eligible for it.