There will be a vast increase in spending on treatment for the estimated 2700 federal inmates infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV). Correctional Service Canada (CSC) has a treatment budget for 2017-18 of $16.5 million, nearly four times the amount budgeted in 2010, according to Ivan Zinger, the Correctional Investigator of Canada.

“This is a story of good leadership at the federal level,” said Zinger.

In 2015, Zinger called on CSC to expand HCV treatment as an investment in public health. He credited CMAJ for “important work that kept the pressure on,” referring to a series of news articles, starting in 2012, on HCV treatment rates in prisons.

The number of inmates started on HCV treatment doubled, to 606, between 2015 and 2016, said Zinger. Another 121 began treatment in April and May of this year. “At this rate, CSC could start over 1000 offenders on curative HCV therapies” in 2017, he said.

CSC’s new approach to HCV treatment can be credited to the introduction of new direct-acting antivirals, bulk purchasing agreements with drug makers, and updated treatment guidelines by the Canadian Association of the Study of the Liver, according to Jennifer Wheatley, assistant commissioner of health services for CSC.

“All inmates diagnosed with hepatitis C are now eligible for treatment,” she said.

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Philip Wilkin, Chair of HepCBC’s Prison Outreach Committee, is very pleased to announce today the launch of a new pamphlet, a toll-free phone “Hotline” for prisoners, and a new Hepatitis Prison Outreach webpage. The pamphlet, “Hepatitis C: Breaking Down the Bars between Prison Health and Public Health,” will be widely distributed to prisoners and their allies over the coming weeks. It invites prisoners, their families and allies, and prison-experienced individuals to contact the Committee for its services: Confidential phone or email information and support, or mailed written materials tailored to the prisoner’s needs. The people answering queries will have lived-experience with either hepatitis B or C, or inside the prison system, or both. They understand confidentiality issues, are non-judgemental, and are committed to listening carefully while doing their best to help. Most are, at this point at least, very dedicated volunteers.

While hepatitis C is the main issue this Committee will address, it is preparing to address co-infection and hepatitis B issues as needed. HepCBC will also be increasing its advocacy work on behalf of BC’s and Canada’s prisoners, with the major goals being:

(1) Hepatitis B and C treatment and care equity for prisoners – same access on both sides of the bars, and a seamless transfer of medical information, treatment, and care between prison and outside and

(2) Prevention of hepatitis B and C infection and re-infection in the prisons through the use of a variety of harm reduction measures including education and supplies.

HepCBC’s Prison Outreach Committee looks forward to working with anyone or any group that shares these goals.


Prison Colouring Book