Initiative launches to attack Hepatitis C epidemic in Kentucky

HepConnect to combat Hep C in Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin was in attendance Thursday as a national bio-technical company introduced plans to attack the Hepatitis C outbreaks in parts of the United States.

"Our role is not to be in the front as much as it is to be beside and support these local heroes to make a big difference in their community," said Derek Spencer of Gilead Sciences.

Derek Spencer of Gilead Sciences. (Source: Sean Baute, WAVE 3 News)
Derek Spencer of Gilead Sciences. (Source: Sean Baute, WAVE 3 News)

HepConnect is the multi-million dollar initiative backed by Gilead Sciences. Gilead will be providing external resources to the one area of the country affected most by the opioid crisis: Appalachia.

“Local change has to be facilitated by local stakeholders,” said Spencer, “so at our best what we want is to create a ‘we’ and identify who those stakeholders are and provide them support.”

Bevin said this is an issue where the state can either pay up now or pay in other ways later.

Gov. Matt Bevin said Kentucky families are paying for the Hep C problem one way or another. (Source; Sean Baute, WAVE 3 News)
Gov. Matt Bevin said Kentucky families are paying for the Hep C problem one way or another. (Source; Sean Baute, WAVE 3 News)

"We're paying for it one way or the other," Bevin said. "The societal cost, the familial cost, the psychological cost, the emotional cost, the spiritual cost, the ways in which this is ripping communities apart, we are paying for it, we are all paying for it."

Kentucky is in the top three in the country when it comes to Hepatitis C infection rate.

Gilead Sciences says Hepatitis C rates increase as opioid usage rates increase, usually as a result of intravenous, or IV, drug use.

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