Host Intro: A recent study says more Americans now die from Hepatitis C than from HIV/AIDS. It’s estimated that one percent of all Americans are infected with Hepatitis C. And of those people, 1 in 4 don’t know they have it. In New York, the rate is slightly higher–between 200,000 and 300,000 people infected. Jason Slotkin reports on the stepped up efforts to get the disease under control (:20)
In takes Charlotte Fauntleroy an hour by shuttle to get from her Canarsie home to the Mt. Sinai Medical Center on the Upper East Side. She’s here for an update on her treatment
Listen. Listen to me. Is it going to go up? (;05)
Fauntleroy was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1993 and it’s given her cirrhosis . Nurse practitioner Alicia Stivala is talks her through changes in her treatment and dosage.
Given that you had 8 weeks under your bel, we should be in good shape. The studies show that reducing the Ribavirin after 8 weeks of treatment, do not have a big response (:13)
Ribavirin is just one of three drugs Fauntleroy is on. They have side effects including anemia and she’s needed a blood transfusion because of it. But the virus is waning and its on its way to what doctors call undetectable. Fauntleroy is incredibly relieved and says the side effects are just an annoyance. Today, it’s a painful rash on her hands.
You get a little fatigue. You get a little rash. But when they tell you, you’re undetectable that puts a smile on your face. (:14)
In about 25 percent of cases, the body can rid itself of the Hepatitis C virus within months of infection. That’s not the case with HIV.
There’s also something called co-infection where people have both viruses. Studies show that significant numbers of HIV patients now die of liver-related illnesses, like ones cause by the Hepatitis C– also called HCV.
Nurse Practitioner Stivala says doctors realized they to had to consider both viruses when treating co-infected patients.
A lot of energy has gone into proper treatment of HIV. But now we’re realizing that its not the HIV that’s going to kill them in many cases, it’s the Hep C. (:12)
There are now drugs that attack the virus instead of just bolstering the body’s immune system like previous ones did. Charlotte Fauntleroy takes one of them called Telaprevir. The FDA has yet to approve it for use by co-infected patients—Mt. Sinai prescribes it anyway. But, Jeff Weiss, a clinical Psychologist at MT. Sinai, says people need to be prepared for all the effects of Hepatitis C treatments WEISS They can lead to depression, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, and this is again in a patient population that already be having some of these symptoms. (:12) Many New Yorkers start the road to Hep C treatment at public health centers, like this one,
SOUNDS OF WAITING ROOM
The Aids Service Center in the East Village.
Volunteers and staff regularly work with patients at risk for infection including drug users and prostitutes.
Many of these peer educators, like Frank Barker, are co-infected themselves.
Most of his fellow volunteers show up in sweats and jeans. But, Barker takes more care of his appearance often showing up on pinstripes and silk ties.
Even though you may see me in my suit and I look healthy, I live with these disease too. There are times I’m tired too, times I feel fatigue, don’t feel like getting out of bed. (:11)
Barker , a young looking forty something, is an Emory graduate who knew he had both viruses by 2008. Barker had a career in marketing. but later became a heavy drug user. He thinks got Hepatitis C from a crack pipe.
Barker delayed starting treatment because he wasn’t sure of how the Hepatitis C drugs would interact with his HIV meds. But he’s talking with his doctor about it.
Diane Williams is the volunteer coordinator at Aids Service Center. She says a lot of patients don’t ever get that far for one reason.
Fear. Fear period. Just the fear of the medicines. Fear of the treatment not knowing the outcome.(:05)
Fear may be a barrier to Hepatitis C treatment, the AIDs Service Center is looking to cross it. That day, the waiting room was full. Jason Slotkin. Columbia Radio News.