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. To learn about the treatment guidelines for your state or federal facility, visit our state-by-state info page
.What is treatment for HCV? Is it true HCV can be cured?
There IS a cure for hepatitis C! Current medications can cure about 70-75% of the people who take treatment. It involves a combination of 2 or 3 drugs and there are numerous new drugs coming in the near future that will increase cure rates and decrease both side effects and treatment duration. Learn more about HCV treatment here
. Click here
to learn about new drugs in development.Not everyone who needs HCV treatment needs it right away.
Some people with HCV may never get sick even if they have the virus for a very long time. Doctors and nurses evaluate each patient to determine if treatment is necessary and desireable. Many patients are advised by a doctor to wait to get treated. HCV is a slow-acting virus and it can take decades before causing significant liver damage. Therefore, if you as a patient have minimal liver scarring or have only recently acquired the virus, doctors may advise you to wait for new, more effective treatment regimens. They may also advise you to wait if they feel that you are not ready for treatment, as the current treatment regimen has numerous side effects. Learn more about HCV treatment here
. Some prisoners may get treatment while incarcerated.
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. \
If you have HCV, but can't get treatment, there are other things you can do to take care of your liver.
- 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.
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.
- 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