By Diane Nunez, Commentary | July 2, 2013
Diane Nunez is a community leader with Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders.
When my friend Pat called to tell me she had been diagnosed with hepatitis C, she was already imagining her funeral. She had been diagnosed very late and had advanced liver cancer. She was dead within four months. But if Pat had been tested earlier, she could be alive today.
People can be infected with the hepatitis C virus for decades without having symptoms. During that time, the virus damages the liver and may lead to disability or death. The state Health Department estimates that more than 200,000 New Yorkers have hepatitis C, but only half have ever been tested.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends screening among baby boomers, the age group that accounts for most infections. The state Legislature recently passed a law implementing the recommendation. Sponsored by Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Nassau County, and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-Rockland County, who lost his father to hepatitis C, the bill requires doctors to offer a test to individuals born between 1945 and 1965. We now need Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill and take a critical first step toward ending the epidemic.
I was diagnosed 15 years ago. I was a former injection drug user. While Pat had never injected drugs, she did have a blood transfusion before screening of the blood supply began in 1992.