It’s National Hepatitis Awareness Month
DHEC Offering Day of Free Testing
during National Hepatitis Awareness Month
COLUMBIA, S.C. – May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Division of STD/HIV/Viral Hepatitis is encouraging South Carolinians to know their status and get tested.
DHEC county health departments will be offering free testing on May 18, which is National Hepatitis Testing Day. Anyone can be tested for HIV, STDs, and Hepatitis C at no cost. Call 1-855-4SCDHEC (1-855-472-3432) or visit DHEC’s service locator at www.scdhec.gov/HIVLocator to find a health department near you.
“Hepatitis is a hidden illness. Millions of Americans are living with chronic hepatitis and don’t know they are infected. The only way to find out is to be tested,” said Ali Mansaray, director of the Division of STD/HIV/Viral Hepatitis. “Detecting viral hepatitis early can help people avoid serious outcomes, such as liver cancer or the need for a liver transplant.”
There are three common strains of viral hepatitis (A, B and C), with varying disease severity, prevention and treatment methods. South Carolina is currently experiencing a hepatitis A outbreak, with more than 2,000 cases identified since November 2018. This outbreak is concentrated among people who use injection or non-injection drugs, people experiencing homelessness, people currently or recently incarcerated, and men who have sex with men. Hepatitis A, as well as hepatitis B, can be prevented by vaccination.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DHEC recommend all adults and pregnant women get tested for Hepatitis C.
About 67 percent of people living with hepatitis B and 50 percent of the people living with hepatitis C are unaware of their status and are at risk for developing liver disease or cancer. In 2019, 527 cases of chronic hepatitis B and 7,022 cases of chronic hepatitis C were diagnosed in South Carolina. Chronic hepatitis B and C can lead to liver disease, failure, cancer or even death if not treated. Despite hepatitis C being curable, there has been an increase in cases largely due to sharing injection drug equipment.
Learn more about viral hepatitis and its three common types on the DHEC website or visit cdc.gov/hepatitis.