Harm Reduction Coalition
Policy Statement on Hepatitis C
(Spring 1999)

The Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is inordinately affecting injection drug users nationally and globally. As with HIV, injection drug users experience hepatitis C progression that is facilitated by stigma, criminalization and denia l of basic human rights. Drug users are refused access to prevention materials and denied treatment when infected. Symptoms are often overlooked or dismissed by providers as the effects of illicit drug use. The Harm Reduction Coalition is demanding the following standards with regard to HCV and drug users:

  1. Full pre- and post- education and support must accompany all screening for HCV.
  2. At-risk individuals who present possible symptoms of HCV infection must be advised of the availability of counseling, education and screening as a standard of care.
  3. HCV testing cannot be mandatory.
  4. Routine testing should be accompanied by comprehensive education followed by the patient's consent. Such education should include information on transmission and prevention; the meaning of the various diagnostic tests; outcome of HCV; eligibility for and outcomes of currently available treatments.
  5. All counseling provides safer injection education.
  6. Drug users cannot be restricted from appropriate treatment based solely on their drug use. Drug users must be offered treatment just like any other HCV+ patient.
  7. All infected individuals should be provided with vaccinations for Hepatitis A and also Hepatitis B when appropriate.
  8. HCV screening must be freely available to all injectors and cannot be limited to institutional contact points such as drug treatment or jail.
  9. New and young injectors, particularly higher risk youth, must be a focus of education.
  10. Clinical trials must not exclude drug users.
  11. Research on transmission of HCV among drug users must be intensified.
  12. Individuals on drug maintenance therapies, such as methadone, cannot be restricted from accessing care, clinical trials or treatment including transplants.