Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a communicable disease that could lead to liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma affecting baby boomers and all people who inject drugs (PWID) in particular. There are over 19,000 HCV-related deaths in the United States annually. HCV can be cured using direct-acting antivirals that can also reverse HCV-related liver injury. In 2012, the CDC released guidelines encouraging physicians to expand targeted HCV testing to include all baby boomers (persons born between 1945 and 1965) in addition to other high risk groups such as PWID.
These findings indicate that the HCV testing policy change resulted in a sustained increase in testing among the target baby boomer population and consequently reduced the impact of the HCV epidemic in the United States. Dr. Barocas comments that a similar initiative may help increase screening in the population of people born after 1965, which includes young PWID who are at high risk for HCV infection but may not be identified by risk-based screening. Dr. Barocas and other CHERISH-affiliated researchers are currently conducting research on the impact expanding CDC testing guidelines to adults born after 1965. Dr. Barocas went on to say “since we have evidence that providers follow HCV testing guidelines, it may be time to expand the reach of those guidelines and routinely test younger adults who, through substance use, are at increased risk of HCV infection.”