Georgia refuses Hep-C cure for poz guys

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News in gay Atlanta of a drug that can eradicate previously incurable Hepatitis-C in 99 percent of cases was tainted last week by the state picking and choosing who can get it, excluding thousands of HIV-positive patients. It’s renewed a clarion call by activists to expand Medicaid.

The 12-week drug regimen that has changed the Hep-C game is known as V-Pak. It works, but it’s expensive – as much as $80,000 per patient. The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, which includes Georgia, negotiated a discount to about half price, but each state must decide whether or not to offer it under various programs.

In Georgia, that means Hepatitis C patients under Medicaid will get V-Pak. But HIV-positive people with Hep C on ADAP, the HIV prescription assistance program, can’t. State agencies say they’re hamstrung by the cost to offer the potentialy life-saving treatment to some and deny it to others, according to WABE.

In a recent speech given by Dr. Gregory S. Felzien, the state's medical doctor in charge of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, he pegged the state's cost for V-pak at $43,000 per treatment. Even at half off, Felzien said the price is too much.

In other words, those who rely on Georgia’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program for their HIV treatment regimen will not have access to V-pak. At least for now.

But other Georgians who are hepatitis C positive will get the drug.

Medicaid patients and those incarcerated, by law, must have access. “If you are clinically determined that that’s going to be what will be the best treatment for you, then both Medicaid and the plan has to cover for that,” Department of Community Health Commissioner Clyde Reese says.  

These developments are just the latest on a long list of reasons to expand Medicaid so that it includes HIV-positive people, according to longtime HIV activist and Georgia Equality director Jeff Graham. He was among advocates posting the news on Facebook with revitalized zeal for change.

ADAP will not pay for the cost of curing People living with HIV who are also co-infected with Hep C. However those on Medicaid will get the cure. Another reason we need to push hard for the expansion of Medicaid in Georgia to cover people living with HIV!

Gay men are among the most affected by the policies. We continue to represent the greatest percentage – and still rising – of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S., and Georgia remains a national leader in AIDS cases. That means gay men are a significant portion of an estimated 12,000 poz people who also have Hep-C in Georgia.

All forms of Hepatitis – rimming-born A, the usually insertive-sex or shared-needle B, and the potentially deadly liver disease in blood-born C – come with extra risk for HIV-positive people. They are both more susceptible to transmission and more in danger of outcomes up to and death if infected because of compromised immune systems, according to AIDS Committee of Toronto, which doesn’t mice words.

If you are living with HIV and have sex regularly, you need to be careful of hepatitis C infection, even when no blood seems likely to be transmitted from anyone else. Although we are currently not certain as to how exactly hepatitis C is transmitted between sexually active people living with HIV, we would suggest that you not share syringes, insertive sex toys, fisting gloves, condoms, or anything that puts your mucosal membranes in contact with another person’s fluids or mucosal secretions.

It is thought that rough anal (ass play) penetrative sex, or prolonged anal (ass play) penetrative sex can cause more trauma to your anal mucosal membranes (lining inside your ass) resulting in openings and easier transmission of a virus like hepatitis C. Sharing anything (including an ungloved finger or a hand that has been in someone else’s anus) is a risk for hepatitis C.

[WABE | AIDS Committee of Toronto]


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