In early July, Chapter 607 held a meeting on educating Vietnam veterans about hepatitis C in Montgomery, AL.
It is estimated that over 80,000 Vietnam veterans have the disease and are unaware of their status because they have no distinct symptoms.
Experts are unsure of why so many Vietnam veterans have contracted hepatitis C, but they think it may be due to the administration of vaccines. Sharing the jet gun method on multiple enlisted soldiers most likely led to the spread of the disease.
Another culprit may be the way in which blood transfusions were performed. Blood from blood banks was not screened for viral hepatitis until July 1992.
Hepatitis C can also be contracted by sharing needles, tattooing in unsanitary environments, and other types of blood exposure practices. It is not spread by touching skin or by saliva.
The disease can attack the liver without clear symptoms. Common symptoms include fatigue and joint pain.
Veteran organizations want all Vietnam-era veterans to be tested for Hepatitis C.
The community meeting organized by Chapter 607’s Jim Sherlock. He has been crusading throughout the country inform the public about 12 different veteran health issues, including hepatitis C.
During his travels, he met with Gilead Sciences, which manufactures hepatitis C drugs. Executives from Gilead have pledged its support of America’s veterans.
The support is significant because the drug company’s price per pill resulted in an $84,000 bill for complete hepatitis C treatment. Because of the high prices, the Department of Veterans Affairs could afford to treat only the patients with the most serious stages of the disease.
Earlier this year, the VA started treating all hepatitis C patients regardless of the disease’s stage.
Officials from Gilead did not want to attend Chapter 607’s community meeting simply to promote their products, but rather to educate the veterans in attendance about the risks of hepatitis C.
They encouraged all Vietnam veterans to get screened.