Prisoners and HCV Treatment

Treatment for hepatitis C (HCV) is complicated and may be even more confusing in prison or jail.  Here are some basic facts you should know if you or someone you know is incarcerated and is seeking treatment.  

What is treatment for HCV?  Is it true HCV can be cured?

Hepatitis C is curable for most patients. Current medications cure between 80%-90% of the people who take treatment.  Treatment involves a combination of 2 or 3 drugs for between 12 and 48 weeks. Which medications to take and for how long depends on the patient. There are numerous new drugs coming in the near future that will increase cure rates and decrease side effects and length of treatment. Learn more about HCV treatment by clicking here, just scroll down to where it says "HCV Treatment: FDA-Approved Medications." Click here to learn about new drugs in development.

Can I get treated for HCV in prison?

Many correctional institutions provide HCV treatment to some inmates. Eligibility usually depends on several factors, the most typical factors include:

  • Time left on sentence: Most facilities require that an offender have at least as much time left on his or her sentence as it would take to go through treatment, at least 9-15 months depending on your genotype.  In many institutions may you need more time.  This requirement is usually intended to ensure you complete treatment in its entirety prior to release - this is called "continuity of care".  
  • Liver function tests: People in prison need a variety of liver tests and possibly a biopsy prior to starting treatment. Most institutions that provide treatment require some evidence of liver disease, usually stage 2 scarring or higher.
  • Mental health and chemical dependency: Many facilities require a mental health evaluation prior to treatment. Some may require that offenders complete chemical dependency counseling prior to starting treatment.
  • Wait listing: Inmates may be put on a waiting list for treatment, as many facilities only have enough money to treat some inmates. 
  • Prison vs. Jail: Prisons may provide treatment for HCV while most jails will not. 

What do I do if I can't get treated while in prison or jail?

  • Don't panic. Not everyone with hepatitis C needs treatment right away. Listen to the advice of the Dr. 
  • See your prison health providers as regularly as possible, be active in managing your hepatitis C infection by requesting liver function tests every 6-12 months.
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Be safe and healthy and avoid co-infection with other viruses, like HIV and hepatitis B
  • Learn as much as you can about hepatitis C

If you feel you are being denied access to medically necessary treatment, you may consider filing a grievance.  Please view our advocacy information for a growing list of resources.
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