USAID Helps Inmates Diagnosed with Hep C Receive Treatment

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Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Social workers transport blood samples from Solone Prison Colony to the Dnipro Penal Institution #4 to determine prisoners’ HIV and HCV statuses.
Photo: Dmytro Shevchenko/100 Percent Life.Dnipro NGO

Oleksandr, a 28-year old inmate at the Solone Prison in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, is HIV-positive and has successfully adhered to antiretroviral therapy while incarcerated. In December 2019, the prison  asked Oleksandr and other inmates to test for hepatitis C (HCV). He agreed, although he doubted that the prison would provide free treatment if he tested positive. While he wasn’t surprised that he tested positive for HCV on the rapid test, confirmed several days later by a more standard blood test, he did not expect free treatment.

The prison doctor offered Oleksandr a free course of medicine, and the prison health unit counseled him on the need for adherence, possible side effects, and treatment monitoring for HCV.

“I just added my HCV medicine to my daily prison routine: tea, art therapy, work, cigarettes, antiretroviral drugs, and now the HCV pills. To my surprise, I didn’t have any side effects.” explained Oleksandr.

Three months later, test results showed no evidence of  hepatitis.

Prior to 2019, neither HCV rapid testing, nor treatment, were available for detainees in Ukraine, even though studies suggested that 60 percent of Ukraine’s incarcerated citizens had the virus.

In 2019, a joint effort between Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and USAID’s Serving Life activity facilitated HCV diagnosis and treatment for inmates co-infected with HIV. In 2019, the MOJ Center of Health Care procured 60,000 HCV rapid tests and USAID supported the purchase of a GeneXpert® machine to read the tests. The machines can detect several viruses, including HCV and HIV. The GeneXpert machine was installed at the Dnipro Penal Institution #4 as part of a pilot program to detect HCV among the incarcerated population in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. USAID also resourced more costly laboratory analyses that the MOJ’s Center of Health Care did not have funds to purchase. With that support the MOJ Center of Health Care was then able to procure HCV drugs to treat HIV/HCV co-infected prisoners for the first time.

By October 2020, the first detainees and prisoners from penal settings in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast had completed a full course of the 12-week HCV treatment regimen. Oleksandr, the inmate at the Solone Prison Colony, was one of them.

Last updated: August 03, 2021

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