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For Incarcerated Hepatitis C Patients, Adequate Treatment Is Hard to Come By

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A California inmate sits on his bunk bed in a repurposed gymnasium.

In April of 2010, Sean tested positive for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. Aged 37, he had been an injection drug user since 1980, when he was 17. Even though his results implied that he would benefit from treatment, Sean was not started on the standard regimen—technically termed “pegylated interferon and ribavirin therapy“—that would have required between 24 to 48 weeks to complete. That was due to the circumstances in which he arrived at Harborview: He had just been arrested, and was brought to the hospital before being transferred to the King County Jail.

Sean lived with untreated hepatitis C for the next five years, until 2015. And that wasn’t down to a lack of interest on his part. “I wanted to get treatment,” he recalls in a phone call with Filter. But a series of cumbersome bureaucratic procedures eventually prevented him from receiving care while in prison.

He was re-tested at King County Jail, and then, when he arrived at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in rural eastern Washington State—where he would be incarcerated until 2012—he had to wait “another month or two to get into medical [care].” Once he finally saw the prison’s medical provider, Sean needed yet another blood test, and this procedure set him back by another “four or five months.”

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Thanks !

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