Hepatitis C is one of the most prevalent infectious diseases. Approximately 3.2 million people are living with hepatitis C in the United States. The percentage of people living with hepatitis C is much larger for incarcerated populations. There is now a safe and effective treatment for hepatitis C: direct acting antiviral medications. The direct acting antivirals clear the virus from a person’s body within 12 weeks, with a cure rate of close to 100%. Hepatitis C treatment is now considered to be safe and effective for all people infected with the virus, but the high cost of the medications means not everyone is getting treated.
The Hepatitis C Project was developed out of ALC’s work in Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes. The initial goal of the project was to develop a network of pro bono attorneys to litigate prison medical care claims for prisoner suffering from untreated hepatitis C in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC). Another goal of the project was to increase public attention to the hepatitis C epidemic in prison. To this end, ALC has corresponded with almost 100 incarcerated individuals from various prisons throughout the state of Pennsylvania. Incarcerated individuals living with hepatitis C continue to be denied treatment, either until they are very sick or indefinitely. When hepatitis C treatment is denied or delayed the medical consequences include fibrosis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver transplant, internal bleeding, and premature death.
To date, ALC has filed four cases based on the denial of hepatitis C treatment for incarcerated individuals and the resulting adverse health outcomes. We are also creating a Pro Se Litigation Packet that will be sent to incarcerated individuals throughout Pennsylvania that are living with hepatitis C. The packet will be used to by incarcerated individuals to file litigation against the PADOC in an effort to seek hepatitis C treatment.