Only half of Americans living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) are aware of their infection, and just 9 percent of the total have been cured of the virus, HIVandHepatitis reports. Publishing their findings in PLOS ONE, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 10 journal articles published between 2003 and 2013 that provided data on the number of people living with the virus and the proportion who had received a diagnosis, had access to care, had received a hep C viral load test, had had their fibrosis level staged through a liver biopsy, had undergone treatment for the virus and had been cured.

Over the past few years, HIV advocacy has focused on what is known as the “treatment cascade,” which, when viewed as a bar graph, shows a descending (or cascading) series of bars representing those who know they are infected, who are linked to medical care and on down to those who have fully suppressed HIV. This new study applies the same paradigm to the hep C field and implies that efforts are needed to address the gaps that occur between each step in the chain in order to help guide people living with the virus all the way through each step so they can be cured.

The investigators found the following:

  • An estimated 3.5 million people in the United States are living with hep C.
  • 50 percent (1.7 million) are aware of their infection.
  • 43 percent (1.5 million) have access to care.
  • 27 percent (950,000) have received liver fibrosis staging.
  • 17 percent (580,000) have undergone treatment.
  • 9 percent (330,000) have been cured.

“This study puts forth a good baseline of hepatitis C care in the United States over the last 10 years—which will be useful in monitoring the success and impact of new screening efforts and advances in antiviral therapy,” the study’s lead author, Baligh Yehia, MD, MPP, MSHP, an assistant professor of Medicine in Penn’s division of infectious diseases, said in a release. “There are many people who don’t know that they have the infection, don’t have access to hepatitis C care and medications, and who haven’t been treated. With this data, we can see these gaps more clearly. This information will be useful for ensuring better access to hepatitis C care and treatment in the coming years.”

To read the HIVandHepatitis story, click here.

To read the study, click here.

To read the press release, click here.