State Health Department Urges Hepatitis C Testing

May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 15, 2014) - In recognition of National Hepatitis Awareness Month and National Hepatitis Testing Day May 19, New York State Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker encourages all baby boomers and persons at risk for hepatitis C to get tested. Why baby boomers? Seventy-five percent of the 2.7 million Americans infected with hepatitis C are baby boomers - persons born between 1945 and 1965. Most are not even aware they are infected. In addition, most new hepatitis C infections are among injection drugs users, especially those under age 30. A specific blood test is the only way to detect the hepatitis C virus.

The Hepatitis C virus attacks the liver. If left undiagnosed and untreated, hepatitis C can lead to serious liver disease such as cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. In recent years, U.S. death rates due to chronic hepatitis C infection have outpaced death rates due to HIV infection. Hepatitis C is spread from blood-to-blood contact. The most common risks associated with hepatitis C transmission are injection drug use, blood transfusion, or organ transplantation prior to 1992. Approximately one-quarter of HIV-infected persons are also infected with hepatitis C.

Unlike other chronic conditions such as HIV, hepatitis C can be cured. New and more effective treatments can cure more than 90% of cases in as little as 12 weeks.

"With newer and more effective treatments, there is no better time than now to get tested and treated for hepatitis C," said Dr. Zucker. "Anyone in an at-risk category should access this important test and know their hepatitis C status."

New York State is the first in the nation to require health care providers to offer a one-time hepatitis C test to anyone born between 1945 and 1965 who is a hospital inpatient or receiving primary care services. If the test is positive, individuals should receive or be referred for follow-up hepatitis C health care.

The New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute provides free hepatitis C rapid test kits to programs statewide that serve at-risk persons, including baby boomers and injection drug users. A list of free hepatitis C screening locations can be found at:

The AIDS Institute also funds 13 hepatitis C care and treatment programs statewide. A list of these providers can be found at: