In New York City (NYC), an estimated 146 500 people, or 2.4% of the adult population, have chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and half may be unaware of their infection. Despite a 2014 state law requiring health care providers to screen for HCV infection in primary care settings, many high-risk HCV-positive persons are not, and a large proportion of those screened do not receive RNA testing to confirm infection, or antiviral therapies.
The NYC Department of Health's Check Hep C program was designed to increase hepatitis C diagnosis and improve linkage to care at community-based organizations.
Coordinated, evidence-based practices were implemented at 12 sites, including HCV antibody testing, immediate blood draw for RNA testing, and patient navigation to clinical services.
From May 2012 through April 2013, a total of 4751 individuals were tested for HCV infection and 880 (19%) were antibody-positive. Of antibody-positive participants, 678 (77%) had an RNA test, and of those, 512 (76%) had current infection. Of all participants, 1901 were born between 1945 and 1965, and of those, 201 (11%) were RNA-positive. Ever having injected drugs was the strongest risk factor for HCV infection (40% vs 3%; adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 19.1), followed by a history of incarceration (18% vs 4%; AOR = 2.2). Of the participants with current infection, 85% attended at least 1 follow-up hepatitis C medical appointment. Fourteen patients initiated hepatitis C treatment at a Check Hep C site and 6 initiators achieved cure.
The community-based model successfully identified persons with HCV infection and linked a large proportion to care. The small number of patients initiating hepatitis C treatment in the program identified the need for patient navigation in high-risk populations. Results can be used to inform screening and linkage-to-care strategies and to support the execution of hepatitis C screening recommendations.
Bureau of Communicable Disease (Mss Ford and Johnson, Mr Rude, Dr Laraque) and Division of Disease Control (Mr Varma), New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Long Island City, New York; and Center for Drug Use and HIV Research, New York University College of Nursing, New York, New York (Dr Hagan and Ms Jordan).
Correspondence: Mary M. Ford, MSc, Bureau of Communicable Disease, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 42-09 28th St, Long Island City, NY 11101 (Mford4@health.nyc.gov).
Project support was funded by Merck & Co; Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc; Abbott Laboratories/AbbVie; Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc; Bristol Myers Squibb Co; Genentech Inc; Gilead Sciences Inc; Janssen Therapeutics; Kadmon Co; MDLand International; and Roche Diagnostics.
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.