HepConnect supports innovative harm reduction programs and services designed to reach people in need, where they are.
The United States is experiencing rising rates of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, fueled by the nation’s growing opioid crisis. This issue is particularly acute in greater Appalachia, where the increase in injection drug use has led to a more than three-fold rise in HCV infection rates.1
In response to the intersecting opioid and HCV epidemics, Gilead Sciences launched HepConnect, a new five-year, multi-million-dollar initiative to help address the increase in HCV infections and support community partnerships in Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
HepConnect has three areas of focus:
Expand Screening and Linkage to Care
Fight rising HCV infection rates by testing for the virus and ensuring those who need it can access appropriate care.
HepConnect will support local community partnerships in an effort to address and remove the below obstacles to appropriate care.
- People must first know they’ve contracted the virus. The majority of infected persons might not even be aware of their infection because they do not have any symptoms.
- Access to healthcare can be difficult in rural areas, including much of greater Appalachia.
- Many residents of the region lack insurance coverage, limiting their ability to get the care they need.
Support Harm Reduction and Community Education
Open doors to harm reduction services to all who need them to help reduce HCV transmissions.
HepConnect will support community partnerships and prevention programs to:
- Implement and expand evidence-based, practical strategies that can have a real impact on the affected populations and surrounding communities, including Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs and Syringe Exchange Programs (SEPs).
- Remove barriers to services that are a critical part of the continuum of care and proven to reduce HCV infection rates.
- Make harm reduction services available to all who need them to reduce HCV transmissions.
Activate Healthcare Infrastructure
Build resources, know-how and capacity in communities where the need is greatest.
HepConnect will work to:
- Educate and expand the number of healthcare providers able to care for people infected with HCV across the region.
- Support the implementation of telemedicine and other innovative programs that reach people where they are.
- Develop local solutions, as they can be the most effective in combating rising rates of HCV infection.
1. CDC: 2-16 Hepatitis Surveillance Report https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/statistics/2016surveillance/pdfs/2016HepSurveillanceRpt.pdf