The hepatitis C virus causes an inflammatory disease. Someone who already carries the virus passed it on.

It is often treatable if you have the disease, and it may not present any symptoms. Life-saving treatment can be given to people who are found to have the presence of the disease.

Not everyone has the same access to screening and treatment is what healthcare inequalities are about.

The American Liver Foundation (ALF) lists three main types of hepatitis: A, B, and C.

There are vaccines that can prevent the diseases, but not the one that can cure them.

“Some people who have been exposed to hepatitis experience damage to their body’s organs. In some cases, the disease can be fatal.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 290,000 people died from hepatitis C in 2019, and about 58 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis C infections.

Research shows that the treatment of hepatitis C can be different for different people.

A 2019 study featuring 34,810 participants born between 1945 and 1965 revealed differences in screening and positivity rates according to race:

Race Screening rate Positivity rate Chronic HCV rate
Asian Pacific Islander 98.7% 2% 1.7%
Black 92.4% 27.8% 22.2%
Latino 96.5% 8.8% 6.9%
Other races 95.5% 11% 7.4%
White 92.8% 22.9% 15.9%

Research shows that African Americans are more likely to be ineligible for treatment for the disease than non-African Americans.

The findings of a 2017 study found no clinical evidence to explain this difference, suggesting that racial discrimination could be a factor.

However, a 2016 study showed that African Americans were more likely to be screened than Caucasians. The study also found that income level had no effect on screening rates, but a lower income level was connected to a higher positivity rate and a lower likelihood of receiving treatment.

Research published in 2020 suggests that screening and access to HCV care still have room for improvements in certain populations:

  • Other than U.S.-born white and Black people, there are other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Americans who are foreign-born.
  • Those born in 1985.
  • People without insurance.

The study found that more than 50 percent of the people identified as living with HCV didn’t know that they had the virus.

Chronic hepatitis C affects about 2.7 million Americans. A 2016 study that examined treatment rates for chronic hepatitis C found that white people had higher treatment rates than historically marginalized groups:

  • white was at a rate of 10.7 percent.
  • Black made up 8.8 percent of the population.
  • The Hispanic population is 8.8 percent.
  • The Asian population is 7.9 percent.

White people were the most likely to have a co-occurring mental health condition at a rate of 20.1 percent, while Black people were the most likely to have a co-occurring medical condition at a rate of 44 percent.

Hispanic people had a higher rate of the disease than white people.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created the Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan. The plan includes strategies to help address the gaps in hepatitis screening and treatment, with a focus on priority populations.

One of the many motivators for this plan is the increase in hepatitis C rates, which have almost tripled between the years 2011 and 2018. The increase is likely due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendation for Hep C screening in those born between 1945 and 1965. This screening began in 2012.

The HHS has identified priority populations for the disease, based on the nature of the disease and the mortality rates.

Acute hepatitis C

  • Alaskan Natives are Native Americans.
  • People who use drugs.

Chronic hepatitis C

  • Non-Hispanic black.
  • People were born between 1945 and 1965,
  • People living with HIV.
  • People who use drugs.

Hepatitis C mortality

  • Alaskan Natives are Native Americans.
  • People were born between 1945 and 1965,
  • Non-Hispanic black.

The HHS has a plan to include everyone from every category. These goals are set.

  • New infections should be prevented.
  • People living with the disease have poor health outcomes.
  • Reducing health inequalities related to hepatitis.
  • Improve data collection and use.
  • coordinate efforts among federal agency partners

July 25, 2013, was the first annual National African American Hepatitis Action Day (NAAHAD). The CDC and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA) work with partner organizations to promote NAAHAD events raising awareness about hepatitis C.

The Black Health Learning Academy offers an online Hepatitis C Treatment and Prevention course that includes actionable suggestions, such as:

  • Increasing community awareness of diseases.
  • Encouraging screening and treatment.
  • reminding people how successful treatment can be.

According to the CDC, May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, May 19 is National Hepatitis Testing Day, and July 28 is World Hepatitis Day. These occasions provide opportunities to start educational dialogues about hepatitis C and its impact.

If left undetected, hep C can be serious. Sometimes there are no symptoms of hepatitis C, so it is possible to not know you have it.

Screening and treatment for hepatitis C is important, but there are gaps between racial groups. Everyone has access to care.

It can help to learn more about this condition and share what you’ve learned with others. The CDC has a viral hepatitis resource page you can visit for more information.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan, you can download it here.