Don’t overlook incidence of hepatitis C and HIV

Dr. Ronald G. Nahass, Hillsborough
I read with great interest the piece (“Heroin use increase spurs need for forum,” The Princeton Packet, Nov. 27) by Philip Sean Curran this week. I have been concerned for a long time about this issue. There are a number of notable absent points in his story that we have tried to raise awareness of locally as well throughout New Jersey that are important.
The first is the epidemic of hepatitis C that is occurring in this population but is not being recognized. For reasons not clear to me the stories about suburban heroin use in New Jersey, which is the root of the hepatitis C issue, do not mention the hepatitis C epidemic. We recently highlighted this in a study that was done at Princeton House and presented at a national meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.I have attached the abstract and press release (it was sent to you but not picked up) on this presentation.
Every time we discuss the heroin problem we must acknowledge this issue to make sure the public, politicians and public health staff are very aware of an additional collateral health consequence of this problem and to assure that New Jersey receives its proper allocation of public health funds related to this serious and transmissible infection. Currently, neither are well recognized.
Furthermore, the heroin problem and the associated epidemic of hepatitis C should bring up a discussion of the risk for rapid dissemination of HIV in this group of individuals. It never seems to be discussed and was notably absent in the discussion in The Packet.
We simply need to look at the experience in southern Indiana this past year to see how quickly HIV can get into and then spread to a large number of individuals quite quickly. The awareness of this possibility and the devastation it would bring make it imperative to be addressed every time epidemic heroin use is discussed. In the population in Princeton House thus far HIV has not been identified in heroin using network. Hopefully, it will not get introduced. We must, however, be vigilant for this possibility. 
Ronald G Nahass, MD 
President, ID CARE 
Hillsborough 