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Hepatitis C kills more Americans than AIDS

The hepatitis C virus (HCV), which attacks and inflames the liver, is one of the most common blood-borne infections that plagues the U.S. Over 3.2 million people are infected and most are not aware of it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HCV, which can ultimately destroy the liver, has been observed to kill more American adults than AIDS.

HCV particularly affects the homeless population, as revealed by a study to be published in the journal Public Health Reports. Researchers tested and surveyed 534 homeless adults from 41 different shelters in downtown Los Angeles to see whether they were infected. They found that 26.7 percent were positive for the virus, 46.1 percent of whom were unaware of their condition.

HCV prevalence was found to be significantly greater among those who were injection-drug users, prisoners, 40 years old or older, had less education and were born in the U.S.

"Their hepatitis C can result in high costs to the public and the healthcare system if progression of their disease is not halted through treatment," said Lillian Gelberg, M.D., a professor of public health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.