Today the Pennsylvania Department of Health joined advocates and residents with lived experiences to highlight the importance of viral hepatitis awareness along with the success of syringe services programs.
“Viral hepatitis is significantly reduced by having access to syringe service programs,” Dr. Wendy Braund, DOH Deputy Secretary of Health Preparedness and Community Protection said during the awareness event news conference in the Capitol building. “The success of existing programs is evidence that residents across the state can help stop the spread of viral hepatitis if more syringe service programs are available.”
Preventing hepatitis with syringe exchange programs
Nationwide, syringe services programs are associated with a significant reduction in injection-related Hepatitis C.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who participate in syringe service programs are five times more likely to enter drug treatment,” Dr. Braund said, noting that DOH leaders were in Bethlehem and Pittsburgh last week to discuss syringe services with elected officials and members of the local heroin and opioid task forces who are eager to provide this service to residents in their region.”
Many infected don’t know
“Forty-percent of Pennsylvanians living with Hepatitis C are unaware of their infection,” Dr. Stacey Trooskin, Chief Medical Officer of Philadelphia FIGHT said. “We can eliminate Hepatitis C from Pennsylvania but we must scale up testing, access to curative treatment and harm reduction services like syringe service programs as evidenced by the success we’ve seen in Philadelphia.”
The Wolf Administration worked closely with members of the General Assembly to develop Senate Bill 926 and House Bill 2264, which would allow organizations to engage in this work. Currently, there are more than 400 syringe service programs currently operating in 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
A tool for recovery
“One of the best tools that we can give people looking for recovery is the tool of connection with others,” said Dr. Braund. “By combining awareness, compassion and syringe services – we can get more people into recovery and away from a life of addiction and the complications that come with it.”