Blog: Local Champions Team Up to Make HCV Micro-Elimination Possible in Georgia
Following the introduction of the medical miracle that is curative anti-viral therapy, the World Health Organization set goals for eliminating hepatitis C virus (HCV) as a public health threat by 2030. Just as much as the Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination is dedicated to accelerating Hepatitis C elimination throughout countries across the world, we are equally inspired by the micro-elimination efforts occurring in our own backyard. In the United States, approximately 2.4 million people are living with HCV. In the state of Georgia where we are based, 56,800 people live with Hepatitis C. Dr. Lesley Miller, Medical Director of the Grady Liver Clinic in Atlanta and one of our 2019 Elimination Champions spoke to us about how the Clinic provides HCV care to underserved populations in metro Atlanta.
About 25% of the patients we see with newly diagnosed Hepatitis C already have complications from their liver disease, they already have cirrhosis. By curing hepatitis C, we can significantly reduce their risk of developing liver cancer and dying from liver disease.
The Grady Liver Clinic utilizes a non-traditional and multidisciplinary approach to HCV micro-elimination through the implementation of on-site screening, linkage to care, and treatment. By recognizing that HCV is spreading at a disproportionate rate among persons who inject drugs (PWID), Dr. Miller and her team are focused on achieving elimination in their region by especially reaching out to these at-risk populations. The results from the Grady Liver Clinic's comprehensive and culturally competent approach to HCV in Georgia have been nothing short of remarkable. From 2015 to 2019, The Grady Liver Clinic tested 38,500 individuals for HCV. Of the 1,800 that are currently have an HCV infection, 1,300 were linked to care. In 2018 alone, 476 patients received HCV treatment with a 98% cure rate.
HCV micro-elimination in Georgia is an ongoing and collaborative effort. Together with the Grady Liver Clinic, two organizations, Imagine Hope and Alliance Recovery Center are making substantial strides with their work in HCV. Led by CEO Marie Sutton, Imagine Hope launched the Imagine Hope HCV Project in 2015 to embed HCV testing in substance use treatment programs as the first step toward cure for persons living with HCV in Georgia.
We thought that if we could build some capacity to address this issue inside the clinics where clients come on a daily basis, that it might really be a unique way to address [HCV]
Through Imagine Hope, individuals obtain HCV screening and linkage to care to one of the 41 substance use disorder treatment programs in the state. The Alliance Recovery Center in Decatur, Georgia served as a pilot program for this massive effort with Dr. Miller training medically assisted treatment staff to treat HCV on site. Since its inception, over 42,000 people in drug treatment programs in Georgia have been screened for HCV. At the Alliance Recovery Center, about 17% of patients screened during the first year were infected with HCV and in need of HCV treatment. Director of Nursing at Alliance Recovery Center Jessica Ross takes pride in her work with underserved populations. To date, 25 individuals have been cured through the Alliance Recovery Center.
Being able to provide the best care to patients that really haven't had kindness or haven't had access to medical care…the amount of gratitude that comes my way, I try to turn it back around to them
Hepatitis C becomes possible when partners with the needed expertise join forces and do more together than is possible separately. The coalition in the state of Georgia provides examples of actions that can inform coalition building across the globe to eliminate HCV.
The Coalition is thankful for the generosity of Steer Films which made this video possible. Learn more about Steer Films here: https://steerfilms.com/.