Background: Approximately 3.2 million persons in the United States are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and most are unaware of their status. Baby boomers are five times more likely to be infected than the general population. Medicines are now available that are more effective with shorter treatment times. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends all baby boomers be screened once for hepatitis C.
Methods: In July 2013, the Southeast STD Clinic began hepatitis C antibody screening of clients born from 1945-1965 or those with a history of injection drug use. A descriptive analysis of the first three months of data from this new initiative was conducted.
Results: During this time, 69 patients were screened and 24 (34.8%) tested hepatitis C antibody positive. Of those, the average age was 54.5 years (range=33-67 years), 24 (100%) were Black, and 9 (37.5%) were female. Of the 20 patients notified of their positive results, 14 (70%) were unaware of their infection status and 15 (75%) were linked to care for further evaluation and possible treatment. Of the 18 patients interviewed; 14 (77.8%) admitted to injection drug use, 1 (5.6%) had a blood transfusion prior to 1992, 1 (5.6%) had a sexual partner known to be infected with the HCV, 1 (5.6%) had multiple tattoos and piercings, and the only risk factor for 1 (5.6%) was incarceration.
Conclusions: We found a high prevalence of hepatitis C among patients seeking services at our clinic and most of those who tested positive were not aware of their infection status. Most were also amenable to further evaluation and possible treatment. Because comprehensive care can help prevent liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer, STD clinics may be an ideal venue to help address this emerging silent epidemic and perhaps help clarify why baby boomers have such high infection rates.