The Mount Sinai Medical Center of New York City has designed an online video program to promote awareness of hepatitis C. The initiative aims to increase testing for the hepatitis C virus (HCV). While 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, an estimated 2 million more remain undiagnosed. The virus can lie dormant for 30 to 40 years without symptoms, but if left untreated it can cause long-term health problems such as severe scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver failure or liver cancer.

The video, titled “Leadership to Cure: Hepatitis C,” includes hep C facts as well as interviews with hep C patients and with Mount Sinai’s Douglas Dieterich, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Liver Diseases. Dieterich himself is a former hepatitis C patient, having contracted the virus through a needlestick.

The video also aims to reduce the stigma surrounding hepatitis C. HCV spreads through blood-to-blood contact, such as intravenous drug use. But most people with hep C, Dieterich said, contracted it through the health care system, through blood transfusions and organ transplants and through improperly cleaned medical equipment or vaccines. It can also be spread through tattoos, piercings, manicures and pedicures, or even contact sports like boxing or rugby.

In addition, the videos teach that hepatitis C is now both treatable and curable, with a cure rate of 80 percent with the latest generation of FDA-approved protease inhibitors. “If we can treat you, we can cure you almost all of the time,” Dieterich says. “So go get tested before it’s too late.”