Ministry of Health stresses importance of viral hepatitis awareness and need to expand syringe services


Ministry of Health stresses importance of viral hepatitis awareness and need to expand syringe services

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania –Today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health joined advocates and residents with lived experiences to highlight the importance of viral hepatitis awareness and the success of needle service programs.

“Viral hepatitis is significantly reduced with access to needle service programs,” said Dr. Wendy Braund, DOH Undersecretary for Health Preparedness and Community Protection at the press conference. on the awareness event at the Capitol. “The success of existing programs is proof that residents across the state can help stop the spread of viral hepatitis if more needle service programs become available.”

Nationally, needle service programs are associated with a significant reduction in injection-related hepatitis C.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who participate in needle service programs are five times more likely to enter drug treatment,” Dr. Braund said, noting that DOH officials were in Bethlehem. and in Pittsburgh last week to discuss needle services with elected officials and members of local heroin and opioid task forces interested in offering this service to residents in their area. »

To support these efforts, the Department of Health worked in partnership with the Pennsylvania Viral Hepatitis Eliminating Planning Committee and the Viral Hepatitis Interagency Workgroup to create the Pennsylvania Viral Hepatitis Elimination Plan.

The plan aims to achieve short-term and long-term goals, including:

  • Create and improve prevention and education initiatives
  • Increase availability of co-located viral hepatitis and harm reduction services and programs statewide
  • Increase testing and links to care and treatment
  • Ongoing monitoring of people diagnosed with hepatitis B and C

“Forty percent of Pennsylvanians living with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection,” said Dr. Stacey Trooskin, chief medical officer of Philadelphia FIGHT. “We can eliminate hepatitis C from Pennsylvania, but we need to scale up testing, access to cures, and harm reduction services like needle service programs, as evidenced by the success we’ve seen in Philadelphia. .”

The Wolf administration worked closely with members of the General Assembly to craft Senate Bill 926 and House Bill 2264, which would allow organizations to engage in this work. Currently, there are over 400 active needle service programs in 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“There are vaccines available to prevent hepatitis A and B and drugs to treat hepatitis B and C,” said Dr. Chari Cohen, senior vice president of the Hepatitis B Foundation. awareness to all areas of the state, combined with needle service programs, is essential as we work to eliminate viral hepatitis in Pennsylvania.”

Currently, 166 organizations have registered to support needle service programs, with several organizations joining the event today:

  • The Allegheny Health Network
  • Philadelphia Fight Community Health Centers
  • Hepatitis B Foundation
  • Clean Slate Recovery Centers
  • Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Network
  • Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission, INC
  • Pennsylvania Association of County Drug and Alcohol Administrators
  • Gaudenzia
  • Pennsylvania Medical Society

“If it weren’t for the needle service programs, chances are I wouldn’t be here talking to you today,” said Kate Favata, Community Relations Liaison for Clean Slate Recovery Centers. “I am proof that these programs not only work, but that they help people live full and impactful lives. “Some people who need these programs are not currently able to access them, and that has to change.”

“One of the best tools we can give people seeking recovery is the Connect with Others tool,” Dr. Braund said. “By combining awareness, compassion and needle services, we can get more people to recover and move away from a life of addiction and the complications that come with it.”

Mark O’Neill, [email protected]

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