The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) want UNM’s Dr. Kimberly Page to investigate how extensive the Hepatitis C epidemic is in New Mexico’s risk population – young and recent initiates to drug injections – and evaluate access to care and prevention services, with a $1.3 million grant.
The CDC estimates that approximately 2.7 million people are infected with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) in the U.S. and up to 50 percent are not aware of their infection. National data indicate increasing incidence and new outbreaks of HCV, predominantly in young adults in non-urban areas. New Mexico has seen a disproportionate HCV increase, and research is needed to quickly and better identify how to provide optimal and integrated prevention and care services.
The Hepatitis-Treatment and Integrated Prevention, or H-TIP, Study follows up on significant HCV infection increases among young adults who inject drugs. Page, UNM internal medicine professor and chief of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Preventive Medicine – along with other investigators at UNM and Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) – will be collaborating with the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) to study HCV infection and treatment services in New Mexico’s young adults.
“This grant provides an important step in understanding and responding to the HCV epidemic in New Mexico specifically,” says Page, a leading national expert in hepatitis prevention research. “We will assess DOH prevention services and ECHO treatment services as an integrated approach to addressing Hepatitis C levels in our younger population.”
The study will enroll about 500 people, about half of whom already could be infected. In addition to evaluating treatment access and care outcomes, investigators will assess infection rates in order to better target prevention. Highly effective treatments and proven prevention methods will help address the HCV epidemic in those at highest risk of HCV in the state.