Prisoners represent some of the most vulnerable populations globally; and prisoners living in the United States are no exception to this tendency. HIV and AIDS within the U.S. penitentiary system represents an entire set of challenges and considerations on its own: confidentiality issues, access to prevention materials and education, and comprehensive discharge protocols for continued access to HIV treatment. It should not be surprising then, that given these challenges, access to Hepatitis C treatment differs little.
A new report shows that less than 1% of prisoners living with Hepatitis C gain access to treatment. Prisoners are disproportionately affected by Hepatitis (roughly some 17% of prisoners are thought to be infected, compared to just 1% of the general population). While the drug regimens of Sovaldi and Harvoni from Gilead offer a virtual cure, the costs are astronomical, skyrocketing upwards to $95,000 per person. U.S. State and Federal officials are reluctant to negotiate with such pricing, even with discounts from the manufacturer, leaving hundreds of thousands of individuals without access to a cure.
Beyond financial barriers, cultural barriers such as stigma, and little public concern for the wellbeing of those incarcerated also exacerbate the issue. Access to treatment human rights violations are not limited to HIV, and more must be done to ensure all have access to Hepatitis C treatment regardless of economic or civil status.
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