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Los Angeles
summit focuses on fighting hepatitis C

Los Angeles
summit focuses on fighting hepatitis C

Health officials gathered in Los Angeles recently to discuss the region's successes--and failures--in fighting the spread of hepatitis C, California's KPCC News radio reports. Stephen Simon, AIDS coordinator for the city of Los Angeles, said county officials, the state of California, and the federal government all are falling far short in their efforts to combat the blood-borne disease, which can be spread through certain sexual practices and is a common coinfection among HIV patients.

As many as 650,000 Californians carry the hepatitis C virus; nationwide, there are an estimated 5 million HCV cases. Some researchers have estimated that up to 25% of HIV patients are also coinfected with HCV, with the coinfection rate rising to as high as 50% of all HIV-positive injection-drug users. A study in the American Journal of Public Health says that if health leaders don't make significant strides in crafting HCV education and prevention programs, there could be nearly 200,000 U.S. deaths from the disease by 2019 and nearly $11 billion in health care costs.

Among the topics discussed at the Los Angeles summit were providing hepatitis treatment to prisoners, reaching the homeless with HCV awareness and prevention outreach, and helping to prevent infections among injection-drug users, who often put themselves at high risk for the blood-borne disease by sharing needles.

Sexually active gay men are at a high risk for contracting hepatitis and are urged to be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. There currently is no vaccine for hepatitis C. (

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