May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. To raise awareness about this disease, our SAGE Harlem program partners with Project HEALS (the Hepatitis C Education and Liver Screening Program) to conduct educational sessions centered on hepatitis C, and offer on-site rapid testing for all LGBT older adults who are interested. The following is a guest blog post by Korin Parrella, Outreach Worker at Project HEALS.
Each year in the United States, 15,000 people die from hepatitis C, a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). You can get hepatitis C from coming into contact with blood that is infected with HCV. In the United States today, the most common way to get hepatitis C is through injection drug use.
There are more than 3 million Americans living with HCV, and most don’t know they have it. Hepatitis C doesn’t have many obvious symptoms, but for some people it can cause serious health problems like liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. When a person is infected with HCV, the virus causes the cells of the liver to start swelling. Over time, all the swelling can lead to scarring. When a person’s liver is very scarred, it cannot filter blood the way the body needs it to. It is at this point that a person may start to feel very sick.