$100 million needed to fight HIV, HCV outbreaks due to opioids, organizations say
As governments across the nation focus on the opioid epidemic and the prevention of overdoses, the leading infectious disease organizations issued statements urging Congress to provide $100 million for the CDC’s Viral Hepatitis programs to prevent further outbreaks of hepatitis and HIV due to injection drug use.
“Our intent is that the mass majority of this funding go directly to the states in the form of additional grants. Currently, the CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis gives prevention and surveillance grants to states to help fund hepatitis coordinators at the state levels,” Franklin Hood, of the AIDS Institute, told HCV Next. “Currently a lot of those efforts are underfunded and, as a result, we are unsure of the true scope of the hepatitis epidemic in the country and there’s also a large portion of the country who is unaware of the fact that they are living with hepatitis C. This would help increase testing in the states and we’re also hoping this would increase linkages to care.”
For physicians, Hood believes this funding could increase the number of patients being screened and seeking out care for their infectious disease.
“The CDC has documented 30 states determined to be experiencing, or at risk for, significant increases in viral hepatitis or an HIV outbreak due to injection drug use,” Ann Lefert, Senior Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), said in a press release. “Resource-strapped health departments are struggling to get ahead of a new wave of infections, and in desperate need of dedicated resources from Congress.”
NASTAD joined the Harm Reduction Coalition, the AIDS Institute, The National Coalition of STD Directors, National Minority AIDS Council and AIDS United, to officially request the funding.
A separate release from the five organizations stated, “The rapid rise in injection-drug use is unleashing a cascade of public health threats beyond the significant rise of overdoses, including increases in hepatitis C, HIV, and STDs, particularly among young adults. The number of new hepatitis C cases nationwide nearly tripled between 2010 and 2015, and hepatitis C now kills more Americans than all other 60 notifiable infectious diseases combined.”
In the NASTAD release, these organizations detailed what could be done with the approval of this funding:
Improve testing for both hepatitis and HIV as well as linking patients to substance abuse services, care and treatment.
Offer more education on the increase in infectious disease due to opioid use to those communities at highest risk and most affected.
Further train disease intervention specialists and other health care professionals about injection drug use, infectious disease and the options for medical treatment.
Assist states in their surveillance efforts to better detect acute hepatitis cases in the earliest stages.
Better prepare states and organizations to create and engage infectious disease prevention programs aimed at injection drug users.
Allow for organized access to and disposal of injection equipment.
“Comprehensive community-based outreach and engagement programs for people who inject drugs have a strong track record in prevention and linkage to care and treatment, but remain woefully underfunded,” Daniel Raymond, Harm Reduction Coalition’s Deputy Director of Planning and Policy, said in the release. “These programs are vital for addressing not only infectious disease risk, but overdose prevention and linkage to substance use disorder treatment and recovery. But they won't reach their potential without additional resources.”
AIDS United detailed that Congress and President Donald J. Trump would need to increase previously placed caps on non-defense funding, reject 2018 funding cuts to programs like the Minority AIDS Initiative and Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS, and restore cuts made in 2017 to programs like the CDC STD program and the Ryan White Program.
Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute, said, “Now is the time, as Congress works to finalize the fiscal year 2018 spending bills, to build on these efforts to ensure that CDC has the necessary resources to tackle the infectious disease consequences of the opioid crisis.” – by Katrina Altersitz
Disclosures: HCV Next was unable to determine relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.