On March 29, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released two important Dear Colleague Letters for health care providers in California.
- In the first letter, CDPH recommends emergency departments (EDs) consider offering routine, opt-out screening for HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV), and syphilis. See attached and here: Dear Colleague Letter: Opt-Out Emergency Department HIV, HCV, and Syphilis Screening (March 2022) (PDF)
- EDs are uniquely positioned to identify people with syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis C who otherwise might remain undiagnosed.
- Implementation of opt-out HIV, HCV, and syphilis testing is supported by California state law and health department recommendations.
- Routine opt-out ED syphilis, HIV, and HCV screening is an effective strategy to identify infections, begin immediate treatment, link to care, prevent transmission, and promote health equity.
- In the second letter, CDPH alerts health care providers to a new state law (Assembly Bill 789), effective January 1, 2022, which requires facilities offering primary care to screen their adult patients for hepatitis B and hepatitis C. See attached and here: CDPH Dear Colleague Letter – Assembly Bill (AB) 789 (March, 2022) (PDF)
- Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are leading causes of liver disease and of significant racial disparities, yet many people living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C have no symptoms and remain unaware of their infection.
- Increased screening has the potential to increase the number of Californians with hepatitis B or hepatitis C who become aware of their infection and are linked to care.
- There are treatments available for hepatitis B and a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B in people who remain susceptible to infection; hepatitis C infection can now be cured in as little as 8-12 weeks.