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Addiction and Hepatitis

Did you know that addiction to drugs and alcohol can lead to infection with viral hepatitis? Addiction also fuels risky behaviors that facilitate the spread of hepatitis to others.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver tissue, and there are three forms commonly associated with alcohol and drug use:

  • Hepatitis B (HBV). This virus is contracted through contact with infected body fluids, including blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. HBV is most commonly spread through sexual contact and needle sharing. The CDC reports that 1.2 million Americans are currently infected with HBV, and a very large percentage are injection drug users. Between 95% and 99% of HBV cases resolve without long-lasting effects, although a small percentage become chronic, long-term infections.
  • Hepatitis C (HCV). Like HBV, Hepatitis C spreads through contact with infected body fluids, such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. Similar to HBV, HCV usually spreads through sexual contact and needle sharing. HCV is one of the most common bloodborne infections in the world, currently infecting between 2.7 and 3.9 million Americans.
  • C is extremely common among injection drug users; studies find that between 50% and 100% of injection drug users are infected with HCV. More than 80% of individuals who contract HCV develop a chronic, lifelong infection. Modern medications have made it possible to "cure" HCV (the virus is not detected in one's blood three months after the end of treatment). Between 50% and 95% of patients are successfully treated, no matter how long the individual has been infected.
  • Hepatitis D (HDV or delta hepatitis). Hepatitis D spreads in the same manner as HBV and HCV. However, HDV is a defective virus that can only spread in people who are already infected with HBV. HDV is very rare in the United States, only occurring in a small percentage of HBV sufferers.

Lack of awareness about the prevalence of infection contributes to transmission. We must become better aware of what groups are most at risk and the proper methods for screening and medical management of chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C, as well as available vaccinations. Right now, we are missing opportunities for early diagnosis and medical care, resulting in poor health outcomes in infected people.

Check it out: Addiction, mental health, and Hepatitis

Posted on: 07/15/2024

HIV Stigma Awareness

How do you think about HIV? Many of us hardly think of it. Others are sure glad they don't have it. And those living with HIV may think of it every day.

There are many attitudes and feelings attached to the HIV virus; after all, forty years ago it was a deadly infection. It's different today. Now, we have significant tools that have made HIV a condition that you live with, including prevention medications and antiretrovirals. One thing still remains though, the stigma of HIV.

Stigma refers to irrational or negative attitudes, behaviors, and judgments towards people living with or at risk of HIV, and it negatively affects their health and well-being. Fear of rejection or blame for contracting HIV discourages people from learning their HIV status, accessing treatment, or staying in care. When people would rather not think of their HIV risk and the attached stigma, they also avoid seeking HIV prevention tools, testing, and talking openly with their sex partners about safer sex options.

Populations disproportionately affected by HIV are also disproportionately affected by stigma. That's because negative beliefs are not only attached to the virus, but also race, drug use, gender/gender-identity, sexual orientation, and/or sex work.

HIV stigma drives acts of discrimination in all sectors of society, including health care, education, the workplace, the justice system, families, and communities. Breaking down HIV stigma is a critical part of ending the HIV epidemic. To be part of the HIV stigma solution, it's important how we talk about it:

Say

Diagnosed with HIV
The War on AIDS
Victims of HIV
Needle Users

Don't Say

Caught the AIDS Virus
Responding to HIV and AIDS
Persons living with HIV
Persons Who Inject Drugs (PWID)

Learn more about: HIV Stigma