Turning Points One Stop Clinic for homeless and low-income patients in Manatee County is now providing free Hepatitis C testing for qualified patients.

With the help of Grants from the state and the Community Coalition for the Homeless in Manatee County, Turning Points clinic is helping cure patients living with Hepatitis C through free testing and treatments.

Homeless living in Manatee County frequently have more than one risk fact for Hepatitis C, like drug use, having a tattoo or body piercing or being a veteran, among others. But all of those patients are now being tested and treated at Turning Points.

“Many Patients didn’t get treated before because they couldn’t afford to get treated,” Dr. Cirillo said. “Especially in our population.”

Turning Points Medical Director Dr. Ronald Cirillo says treatments have also improved; now a daily pill cures around 96% of people in 12 weeks.

“The treatments we had in the past were very toxic, more border lining chemotherapeutic agents,” Dr. Cirillo said. “And the side effects were tremendous and the results weren’t as great. Today we have an oral pill, minimal side-effects.”

“The testing is as easy as a simple prick on the finger, and test results are given within 20 minutes.

“From there we either refer them to our Hepatitis-C clinic which goes on here,” Dr. Cirillo said. “And they’ll have further studies and treatment prescribed, or it’s negative, they’re already in our database, they’re already patients here, then they would be put into a follow-up program.”

Dr. Cirillo says patients with at least one risk-factor should be tested once a year.

The Clinic is also studying ways Hepatitis C is transmitted.

“Transmission has been suggested by oral-fecal route,” Dr. Cirillo said. “Or by possibly mosquitos, we don’t know. We have significantly large members of our community and other communities that have Hepatitis-C and we can’t find the risk factor that led them there.”

Dr. Cirillo hopes the study will help find ways to stop Hepatitis-C from spreading, especially in homeless populations.

“I believe that communities like this where Hepatitis-C is so prevalent,” Dr. Cirillo said. “Is one of the factors contributing to the Hepatitis C we can’t explain in other populations in our country, and I think is we can eradicate it here in this community and take it to other communities like it across the country, we’re on the road to eradicate Hepatitis C.”

So far more than 90% of the patients that have participated in the program at Turning Points have no signs of Hepatitis-C being active in the body.