In the wake of the opioid epidemic in America, a new public health crisis has emerged: a surge in hepatitis C cases.
In 2017, the White House Opioid Commission addressed a letter to President Donald Trump noting that 142 people in America die each day due to drug overdoses. That same letter is what finally urged the president to declare the crisis a national emergency and begin initiatives to address the issue.
This enhanced the Trump administration’s ability to make grants and conduct investigations working toward reversing the overdose spike. But progression has been slow as many states have yet to adopt a modern view on decriminalizing drug use. While the nation continues to debate the best strategy of approach, a new crisis has emerged making the epidemic even more deadly.
The most common way to spread hepatitis C is through sharing needles, which is why the spread of the disease perfectly correlates with the rise of opioid use. Approximately 3.2 million people in the United States are infected with hepatitis C, which may be a low estimate due to the vast number that go unreported and the persons who remain unaware of their infection.
While states such as California and New York have dabbled with the idea of safe consumption sites that monitor the use of drug injections, Iowa is still fighting to make clean syringe distribution legal. Hepatitis C cases have been on the rise in the state, reaching over 2,000 in 2015 compared to 700 cases in 2000.
In efforts to reverse this acceleration, the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition has sought to provide weekly outreach services in cities across the state by distributing safe injection equipment, condoms and test kits for HIV and hepatitis C.
After voting for Trump in the 2016 election, Iowa’s conservative lawmakers have yet to step up to the plate in making legislation to resolve the opioid and hepatitis crisis. In this video, VICE News tells the story of how Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition is pushing for a needle exchange bill to prevent the deadly infection from spreading further.
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