Harm Reduction Coalition
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:
- Full pre- and post- education and support must accompany all
screening for HCV.
- 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.
- HCV testing cannot be mandatory.
- 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.
- All counseling provides safer injection education.
- 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.
- All infected individuals should be provided with vaccinations for
Hepatitis A and also Hepatitis B when appropriate.
- HCV screening must be freely available to all injectors and cannot
be limited to institutional contact points such as drug treatment or
- New and young injectors, particularly higher risk youth, must be a
focus of education.
- Clinical trials must not exclude drug users.
- Research on transmission of HCV among drug users must be
- Individuals on drug maintenance therapies, such as methadone, cannot
be restricted from accessing care, clinical trials or treatment