By Laura Comstock

Know Your Hepatitis Status

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. During this month, we work to educate all New Mexicans on the importance of testing, understanding a diagnosis, treatment plan compliance and ways to decrease the social stigma that surrounds viral hepatitis.

Millions of people in the U.S. are living with hepatitis C and many do not know it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends universal hepatitis C screening for every adult.

"There is a lot of power in knowing your hep C status,” said Colleen Chàvez, MCRP, program coordinator for The University of New Mexico Hepatitis C Elimination Project. “On a personal level, knowing what my results are – regardless of being hep C negative or positive – makes me feel more empowered and prepared for what’s next.”

Hepatitis Testing Day, May 19, was created to help raise awareness and encourage more individuals to learn their status.

“In a larger context,” Chàvez said, “all of us testing means that we are lessening the stigma around hep C, and hopefully reaching people that get the cure they deserve."

All of us testing means that we are lessening the stigma around hep C, and hopefully reaching people that get the cure they deserve
Colleen Chàvez, MCRP, program coordinator for the UNM Hepatitis C Elimination Project

Fast Facts (from the CDC):

  • Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus.
  • Although hepatitis C can be a short-term illness, for most people, it is a chronic infection. In fact, over half of those infected with hepatitis C will develop a chronic condition.
  • Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent infection.
  • If left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, cancer and even death.
  • Hepatitis C is usually spread through contact with blood from an infected person. This includes sharing needles, razors, toothbrushes and other personal items that encounter even miniscule amounts on infected blood; unprotected sex with an infected partner; tattoos or piercings from an unlicensed/unregulated provider using non-sterile equipment; birth from an infected person.
  • A person cannot contract hepatitis C via mosquito bites, breastfeeding from an infected person, casual contact or airborne transmission, including coughing or sneezing.

Know Your Status!

Beginning May 8 through May 23, the team at UNM Truman Health Services is offering free universal Hepatitis C screenings. Everyone who signs up and completes a test will be entered into a raffle to win one of four $50 Amazon gift cards.

To learn more about hepatitis C and how you can protect yourself and your loved ones, check out UNM Truman Health Services and Hepatitis Awareness Month materials from the CDC.

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