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News Release

Indian Health Service

Millions of Americans have chronic viral hepatitis, and most of them don’t know it. National Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19th is an opportunity to remind health care providers and the public about who should be tested for viral hepatitis.

The Indian Health Service is releasing a new Special General Memorandum - Hepatitis C: Universal Screening and Treatment that will expand screening for the hepatitis C virus, or HCV, to all Indian Health Service patients over the age of 18 years at least once in their lifetime, with additional risk-based screening as indicated. This will not only improve health outcomes for American Indians and Alaska Natives, but can also result in long-term cost savings for the agency.

hepatitis C virus-related mortality among American Indians and Alaska Natives is more than double the national rate. Early diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C virus is important to prevent the development of serious complications. Highly effective treatments for hepatitis C virus are available and can be successfully implemented at the primary care level with appropriate planning and support.

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This new guidance will coordinate efforts in the Indian Health Service to implement and exceed the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for universal screening for hepatitis C virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hepatitis C virus screening for all adults born from 1945 through 1965.

Because the rates of hepatitis C virus in Indian Country are disproportionately higher for those born after 1965 compared to the general population, Indian Health Service is implementing universal screening to identify those American Indian and Alaska Native individuals living with hepatitis C virus who were born after 1965, and get them into treatment before major liver damage occurs.

All Indian Health Service direct care facilities will establish and implement universal hepatitis C virus screening and treatment protocols in a strategic manner as part of a nationwide effort to prevent and control hepatitis C virus transmission and hepatitis C virus-related chronic disease.

The Eliminating Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS in Indian Country Initiative will provide treatment and case management services to prevent hepatitis C virus transmission and enhance HIV testing and linkages to care in support of the administration’s Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America. The president’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal includes $25 million in new investments to expand partnerships between Indian Health Service and Native communities to address hepatitis C virus and HIV.

Indian Health Service will continue to work in partnership with tribes and urban Indian organizations across the nation to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.