People infected with both HIV and Hepatitis C virus have complex medical needs and are often socially marginalized. The Hepatitis C virus causes serious liver damage, which can lead to premature death. For people living with both HIV and Hepatitis C liver disease progression accelerates considerably. To reduce the growing clinical and healthcare burden of advanced liver disease co-infected patients need to be treated and cured of Hepatitis C. Fortunately, new medications that usually cure Hepatitis C now exist, but at an extraordinary cost (up to $120,000/treatment, more valuable per gram than gold or diamonds), therefore access is limited.
Clinical guidelines state that all patients with chronic HCV infection should receive treatment, including prioritization of treatment for populations at risk of transmitting HCV such as people who inject drugs. However, it has been well established that people who are social or materially deprived, such as homeless people, often have reduced access to healthcare and as a result, die at a younger age and from causes that are preventable.
My research project aims to use statistical methods to combine variables including average monthly income, and the proportion of people who are unemployed to create a score that will describe someone's social, and material deprivation. Subsequently, I will determine whether the social, and/or material deprivation index scores are associated with reduced access to hepatitis C treatment and preventable hepatitis C deaths. Cures are now available, but due to the high-cost access is limited. I hope that my research will help improve clinical care, and as a result, avoid health inequalities in vulnerable populations.